On Thursday, March 16 Stokes Family YMCA will recognize their 20th anniversary.
“We plan to celebrate,” said Executive Director Derek Edwards. “We’ll have food from morning until evening and some membership specials. We’ll also have drawings for t-shirts and we hope folks will come in and share their Y story.”
Before Stokes Family YMCA was built, it operated for ten years out of Recreation Acres in King.
“Our name was Northwest Family YMCA,” said Tim Hall. “Our biggest program was afterschool care. We were using the schools for basketball leagues and we had our camp at Camp Hanes. But obviously we knew if we could build a facility we could expand that.”
Hall was a part of a group in the early 1990s working to get a YMCA in Stokes County.
“Brothers Charlie and Ed Shelton donated land for the sole purpose of building a YMCA, but then nothing was happening so they gave the land to the Baptist Hospital with the caveat it could only be used for a YMCA,” Hall said.
As time passed, hope began to dwindle.
“We’d pretty much completely given up on having a facility,” Hall said. “We had two feasibility studies done and they showed we were going to have difficulty raising money. But then I got a call literally out of the blue from Wake Forest Baptist Medical. They told me they believed it was in Baptist Hospital’s best interest and Stokes County’s best interest to have a YMCA. They wanted to know how they could help.”
The momentum continued.
Stokes County commissioners and King City Council each gave $300,000 to the project.
“We knew if we could get the commissioners and King on board, we were moving in the right direction. We met in the courtroom in Danbury when we asked the commissioners for $300,000. I’ll never forget the courtroom was packed, half of which was kids. There were people of all different ages and such a great diversity, which made it even better,” Hall said.
Marvin Gentry, who oversaw the capital campaign alongside Garry Merritt, said the early funding from Stokes County was paramount to the project.
“Because of it, we were able to approach potential donors with confidence that it was going to happen. It also showed great support,” Gentry said. “Because of that we went to Winston Salem and said, ‘Hey, we’ve supported what you’ve done and look at what our county is doing. We need your support.’
“The YMCA is so well respected, we were able to raise about a million dollars out of Winston Salem.”
As money poured in from outside of the county, the community rallied to be a part of the exciting project as well. Individuals, families and local businesses pledged to make the YMCA a reality.
When the YMCA was built, the opening goal was to have 2,000 members and a 10-year goal was set at 2,500 members. Today, they currently have more than 6,500 members reaching beyond Stokes, into Surry and Forsyth County.
Stokes YMCA quickly outgrew their facility and in 2001 expanded to add a wellness center, community room, additional gymnasium and extended the track.
Darle Shouse, who’s also been a part of the YMCA since its inception, said he would drive to the Winston Salem YMCA during the week to swim and it filled a need when the facility was built in Stokes.
“Seniors are looking for something to do and they’re here daily in large numbers. It’s always meant a lot to me, but when I had a health problem in 2004 I realized how important this place was. I’m here four or five mornings a week. It’s probably the best thing that’s ever happened to this county.”
Unequivocally the Stokes YMCA is more than just a gym and a place to swim.
“We’re a place for everyone. We have a wonderful staff that loves people and loves this community. I really believe this is a special place,” Edwards said.
Amanda Dodson may be reached at 336-813-2426.