Itasca County YMCA, City of Grand Rapids and ElderCircle Collaborate to Expand Community Services

Herald Review
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by Nathan Bergstedt

Itasca YMCA exterior render
Itasca County YMCA

Grand Rapids, MN – The Itasca County YMCA, along with the City of Grand Rapids and ElderCircle, have come to the next stop in their joint Active Living Project to collaborate on resources and to expand the YMCA. Every day this week, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and from 4 to 6 p.m., volunteers will be available just off the main entrance of the YMCA to show and discuss the recently finished architectural sketches of the building after the expansion.

The architecture firm DSGW, a northern Minnesota firm with offices in Grand Rapids, was hired for the project. Itasca YMCA Executive Director Betsy McBride said that it was important to them to hire as locally as possible, which is something they will continue to do when seeking out a general contractor. The current plans are considerably different from how they were last fall when Grand Itasca was officially brought on board with the project, but as far as McBride is concerned, it’s certainly for the better

“It was really a neat process. They brought us all together, the staff and volunteers, and we talked about what we’ve been talking about for a long time,” said McBride about working with DSGW. “They had a big plot-map of our building with square pieces, and we literally moved them around to see what would fit where.”

Of the more significant changes made to the plans, the child care and youth centers have been moved right by the front doors, and the entire building will continue to be only one story. In previous layouts, a second story was proposed over the racket ball courts, but the latest plans do away with the second floor in exchange for an extension on the back of the building, which gives the building more space for less cost.

Over the past year of fundraising, the Active Living Project so far has reached 98 percent of its total goal of $5 million. More than 400 individuals have made donations to the renovation, in addition to area businesses. McBride and ElderCircle Executive Director Kristi Kane both discussed how they received more than $900,000 in a single week around the holidays because of large donations from the IRRRB and the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation.

“Betsy and I concluded that we will probably never again have a fundraising week that successful in our careers,” said Kane.

In addition to giving the YMCA more space, the project promises to save money for the YMCA, ElderCircle, and the City of Grand Rapids due to the nature of the collaboration. Grand Itasca will also have clinic space in the building, making the new Itasca YMCA an all-around health building. ElderCircle will also be moving their offices into the space, which will become a new community center after the closing of Grand Rapids Township Hall.

The hope is to have construction begin as early as April, and to be completed as soon as November, 2014.

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