"Much More than a Gym"
With Hurricane Idalia now passed and most of us, gratefully, faring much better than we did in the wake of Hurricane Ian, the last few days were a reminder of how delicate our Florida paradise is. In the Y, we were reminded of the issues and learnings created by Ian and we all prayed for a much more forgiving experience this time around.
When I first started writing these First Friday messages, one of my primary objectives was to provide insight into what influences me as a leader and how that plays out in real time for our Ys. And if you read the last issue of “Real Talk”, you know that I place a high value on no-nonsense dialogue even at the risk of causing a wave or two.
So, for today, I am sharing a little real talk about a challenge for our Y that is especially pertinent in the aftermath of this last storm and for a particularly loyal group of our members.
Eleven months ago, Hurricane Ian left Blanchard Park in east Orlando severely flooded and filled our Y with two to three feet of water. In addition to having to remove all flooring, all of our cardio equipment was in ruins, and we had to remove all drywall up to 4 feet. Outside of the building, our pool likely took on the worst of the flood as all of the silt from the nearby river was deposited into the pool.
The multi-million dollar estimate to fully restore the facility and replace the equipment exceeds the flood insurance coverage, but the greatest challenge is the location. Located within a flood zone, any future presence requires that we make additional investments to ensure that similar damage will not reoccur.
As a community-supported nonprofit, the Y has continued to work diligently to seek alternative funding support through FEMA in conjunction with a number of other funding avenues. FEMA initially denied our request, but we have filed an appeal and are awaiting a decision. We are also in ongoing conversations with Orange County related to facility and programmatic options and will continue to offer Y Youth Sports at Blanchard Park this fall.
We are grateful for the outpouring of support and commitment from our Blanchard Park Y members. Many members have asked how they can help. Given the significantly high level of expense to repair the facility, along with the funding and facility site complexities, the best way to support the Y is to continue with your membership at nearby Y family centers to keep growing healthier.
Our Blanchard Park members have been forced to find new ways to stay connected with the incredible community that existed within the Y. Like all of our other family centers, the Y in Blanchard Park was much more than a gym, it has been a place where friends and families gather.
In an organization still redefining itself from our pandemic lows, there will always be plans for new programs and locations, and times when we, unfortunately, have to plan for the opposite. In this case, we are working to restore this essential community hub and hope to be able to share more favorable updates as they become available.
Until next time…
Kevin Bolding, President & CEO
YMCA of Central Florida
The Y. For a better us.®