Orrville YMCA marking 50th anniversary

Orrville YMCA marking 50th anniversary

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When the Orrville YMCA was constructed 50 years ago, branch director Lindsey Baumgartner was not yet close to being born. In fact, Baumgartner’s parents were more than likely still strangers to one another: growing up in the Orrville community, possibly hanging out with their childhood friends, looking for a place to go to play sports, exercise or hang out after school.

So thankfully, five decades ago this year, Orrville received the blessing of its own YMCA building — an addition Baumgartner has continued to be grateful for since she began working for the organization in May 2016.

“My time at the Y has come full circle,” Baumgartner said. “I started here as a child, learning how to swim and attending summer camps in the late '90s, early 2000s, and I am so happy to be back in this capacity, serving the community and the Y how it served and shaped me.”

She began working at the YMCA two days after graduating with her bachelor’s degree in exercise science from Baldwin Wallace University, so she has built up a number of relationships with supporters of the organization over the years. She said giving them credit for getting the Y to its first 50 years is one of her top goals for the anniversary celebration.

“We are truly focusing on thanking all of our supporters in the community — from donors, board members, volunteers, staff, members and beyond," Baumgartner said. "I personally am so thankful for the Y and what it means to me, how it has shaped me, and how it has helped the community. I wouldn't be where I am without it, and I am looking forward to seeing the next 50 years.”

Some of the events celebrating the anniversary include an ice-cream social with former and current staff members; a former and current donor, board member and volunteer appetizer social; sponsorship of a story book walk free to the community in April; a float routine and theme around 50 years for the Orrville July 4th parade with giveaways; member appreciation events and giveaways; a community Strut Your Mutt walk/run event; membership, aquatics and fitness specials; and more.

Orrville YMCA Hi-Lo class instructor Jenni Reusser has been involved with the organization practically since it started. In 1979 while her husband Paul was serving on the Y board, she sort of accidentally became a big part of the YMCA’s success.

“The new director Martha Kelly (was) new to town, asked for suggestions of people who might like to lead a class,” Reusser said. “Paul gave her my name and phone number, and one thing led to another. I had been skipping rope and doing exercises at home while the baby napped and jumped at the chance to have real training to lead classes. There have been many transitions. I am very happy to be able to continue to lead what is now known as Hi-Lo exercise, a low-impact movement-to-music exercise class.”

Until the Orrville YMCA’s building was constructed in 1996, classes were held at Wayne College, as well as various other locations throughout the area, Reusser explained. If there was a place open for people to come and gather together to exercise, they would come.

“Classes were held at Wayne College and at many different schools and churches throughout Orrville and in surrounding communities — Smithville, Dalton, Marshallville and Rittman,” Reusser said. “When the Orrville community made it possible to have a facility, more programs and opportunities soon became available for people of all ages to take advantage of, everything the Y could now offer including a fitness center and a swimming pool.”

To kick off the 50-year celebration, the Orrville Y held a gathering on Feb. 1 to unveil the official 50-year anniversary banner. Attending were past and present board members, donors, supporters, staff, volunteers and program participants.

Longtime Orrville resident Bob Witmer assumed the duties as executive director of the Orrville YMCA in 1985, a position he held for 28 years, retiring in 2013. Although he has been away from leadership duties of the Y for nearly 10 years, he has been involved in the reflection and planning process of this year’s 50-year anniversary celebration.

“It’s been a pleasure to work with a small group who is planning open houses; staff, board, volunteer and donor socials; member appreciation events; and a community walk with pets,” Witmer said. “I look forward to becoming reacquainted at the various socials this year with many of my former colleagues who have helped the YMCA thrive in our community.”

Not only is the YMCA a great place to get your daily exercise goals achieved, but also it can be the perfect opportunity to meet new people and blossom budding friendships.

“My wife and I attempt to live healthy lifestyles and try to walk, bike or take fitness classes at least four hours per week,” Witmer said. “But our weather isn’t always agreeable, and it’s very rewarding to attend YMCA classes with others, which helps to provide motivation and fun.

"From early on, I enjoyed coordinating and playing in our YMCA adult basketball, volleyball and soccer leagues. My wife taught an aerobics class, and our kids participated in gymnastics, ballet, T-ball and other youth team sports. Whatever your age, your level of fitness, your goals, your ability to pay or your schedule, the Orrville Y is a wonderful place to care for your well-being — physically, mentally, emotionally, socially and spiritually. I have witnessed this over and over again.”

Visit the Orrville YMCA website at www.ymcawayne.org, its Facebook or Instagram page at YMCA of Wayne County, or call its front desk at 330-683-2153 to learn more about programs and to register. The organization at 1801 Smucker Road in Orrville is next to Wayne College and actively seeking volunteers for a variety of different areas. It is always hiring lifeguards and swim instructors.

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