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Wilmerding Community Center Prepares for Grand Opening at Former Y Site

By Richard Finch Jr.
The Tube City Almanac
August 29, 2019
Posted in: McKeesport and Region News, North Versailles Twp. News

Wilmerding Community Center board member Melissa Allenbaugh shows the indoor swimming pool to John Callahan of North Versailles Twp. during the open house held on Aug. 24. The grand opening will take place Sept. 3. (Richard Finch Jr. photo special to Tube City Almanac)

Greg Jakub has been involved in the Wilmerding Community Center project ever since “the YMCA handed me the old keys and closed the door.”

At an open house Saturday at the former Wilmerding YMCA, Jakub, the borough's mayor, said he would like to see people coming to the center to socialize as well as exercise.

“We have people that used to come in here, they didn’t swim, they came to sit and gab and that’s what we want to have happen again,” Jakub said. “All the hard work is finally paying off, but we're still a work in progress and there are things that need to be done.”

The center officially opens to the public on Sept. 3.

Joining Jakub during the open house at the facility on Ice Plant Road were Jim Kudis, the chief executive officer of Wilmerding-based Allegheny Petroleum; state Sen. Jim Brewster; members and volunteers.

The Wilmerding Community Center has what is described as a "state-of-the-art" exercise facility with a full gymnasium and indoor swimming pool. Monthly membership fees will be $35 for adults, $55 for families and $15 for teens aged 13 to 18.

Jakub said he is grateful for the people that have helped with funding, but “it's still a close call ... and we still need more.”

He joked that as visitors left on Saturday, he was “going to stand in the doorway with my hand out.”

The Wilmerding Community Center held an open house on Aug. 24. The grand opening will take place on  Sept. 3. (Richard Finch Jr. photo special to Tube City Almanac)

The Wilmerding YMCA branch was one of those closed following the 2018 bankruptcy reorganization of the YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh.

As part of the bankruptcy reorganization the Y also closed branches in Penn Hills, Moon Twp., Delmont and Pittsburgh's Market Square.

Wilmerding Borough owns the building and will lease the facility to the community center. McGinty said the center received federal tax-exempt, charitable status under 501(c)(3) of the tax code in March.

A new non-profit group has been formed to operate the Wilmerding Community Center, said Peter McGinty, who serves as the executive director. The group was granted federal tax-exempt status in March, he said.

They’re “being prudent with the dollars and expenses, so we're stretching,” McGinty said, and the center will continue to reach out to area businesses for donations. But, he said, memberships should be enough to sustain the facility.

Sylvia Zibrat, a long-time YMCA member and former board member, with Peter McGinty, executive director of Wilmerding Community Center, at the open house on Aug. 24. The grand opening will take place Sept. 3. (Richard Finch Jr. photo special to Tube City Almanac)

Eighty-five-year-old lifelong Wilmerding resident and former YMCA board member Sylvia Zibrat said she was sad to see “what the Pittsburgh Y did to our Wilmerding Y,” as she put it.

But Zibrat is pleased the Wilmerding Community Center is opening soon and expects a lot of members will come back. She was one of the people who welcomed visitors touring the facility Saturday.

Kudis, founder and chief executive officer of Allegheny Petroleum, spoke at the event and said the swimming pool is a main attraction.

His company pledged $75,000 over three years to the Wilmerding Community Center. The gift was announced in May. Also announced in May was a matching $75,000 grant from the Allegheny County Community Infrastructure & Tourism Fund.

Wilmerding Councilwoman Kelly Maxwell, who is a member of the community center board, said board members are working with UPMC and Highmark to offer programs including flu shots and glucose screenings so that the facility can address overall health, "not just the physical fitness part.”

Maxwell said the center is also looking into the feasibility of offering childcare or daycare services.

In addition to McGinty, Jakub and Maxwell, other board members include former longtime YMCA employee Gary Nowading, Paul Heatherington, Linda Kirk, Steve Shurgot, Joe Lawrence and Johnny Mock.

Success will require a big commitment from the surrounding community, McGinty said.

In part because of its heated, indoor swimming pool, the Wilmerding YMCA had members from throughout the Mon-Yough area, including McKeesport, Monroeville, North Versailles Twp. and White Oak.

The structure is about 40 years old, McGinty said, and was renovated in 2006.

He hopes to attract some members from the nearby Westinghouse Arts Academy charter school. “We could be part of their physical education component and support their school," he said. "We’ll also reach out to East Allegheny.”

McGinty said the Silver Sneakers program also will return.

“I'm a believer that it takes a whole organization of active people reaching beyond and that’s what we’re going to have to do to make this work,” he said.

Richard Finch Jr. is a freelance writer who covers news from McKeesport Area School District and North Versailles Twp. for Tube City Almanac. He may be reached at finchr43@gmail.com.

Originally published August 29, 2019.

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