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Future of ‘Model’ YMCAs Being Built in Birmingham’s Northeast Community

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Children from the after school care program at the Northeast YMCA join in on the groundbreaking and celebration and are joined by leaders and partners in the revitalization effort. (Keisa Sharpe-Jefferson, The Birmingham Times)
By Keisa Sharpe-Jefferson
The Birmingham Times

For three decades, Terri Harvill, Chief Social Impact Officer of the YMCA of Greater Birmingham has been associated with the Northeast YMCA in one way or another, whether working there as a college student to currently serving as executive director.

“As a student at Talladega College, I thought I had the best job in America because minimum wage was $4.25 and they paid me $5.25 to lead summer day camp [at the Northeast YMCA],” she said.

Harvill was at the facility on Tuesday as plans were announced to make the facility a model for other Y’s nationwide. In 18 months, the landscape at the Northeast YMCA will look significantly different and will include new housing, medical care and revamped facilities.

According to Dan Pile, CEO of the YMCA of Greater Birmingham, that building will become a YMCA of the future.

“We are going to revitalize and [transform] our facility … and make it worthy of its history.

We are going to expand youth and teen programs, make [services] available for seniors and families,” Pile said. “It’s not your mother and father’s YMCA.”

He added that it’s time for the Northeast YMCA to move from its past and embrace what it can be. “The community is demanding change and we’re responding,” he said. “… and we’re going be a model for every YMCA around the country.”

Addressing the Roebuck community in northeast Birmingham, the CEO said the programming and staffing were always excellent at the building, even though the funding may not always have been there,

“This YMCA was built in 1965, and as you can see, it has suffered from a lot of disinvestment. Not a lot of money and effort had been put into this …. While you had a second-class facility, you had a first-class program and top-shelf impact,” he said.

The revitalization will be a team effort, he said.

“Habitat for Humanity will build 23 attainable homes on this property. Christ Health Center will put what they refer to as a ‘world class’ pediatric clinic focusing on youth and pre- and post- natal care all the way up through adolescence. Impact Family Counseling will be a partner inside of our building,” he said.

Another partner, which took the lead role in providing capital for the project, is Regions Foundation, a nonprofit funded primarily by Regions Bank, he added.

“When we first heard about the vision that the YMCA of Greater Birmingham had for Roebuck in the northeast community, we knew we had to be a lead donor in this effort,” said Marta Self, Executive Director of the Regions Foundation. “We knew we had to jump in and provide resources and support to see it through.

“This development is bringing more access – to childcare, educational opportunities, a safe and affordable place to call home, for families to build wealth and be together. The message today is we are all here for you,” Self said.

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin also commended the collaborative work on the project. “Years from now, people who are [at this new facility] will be talking about what they did here and it’s because of your hard work. You’re literally improving the quality of life of our citizens and of our residents.”

Alicia Lumpkin-Whitfield, board chair of the Northeast YMCA, said the event easily rates as one of her top professional moments.

“It’s just not about brick and mortar and this land. It’s about the soul of a community,” Lumpkin-Whitfield said. “It’s about the countless lives that will be touched and the dreams that will be nurtured; the future generations that will be inspired on this land [and] here in these walls.”

After the program, children from the YMCA joined local, city and community leaders and partners to break ground on the project.

“This is significant because when everybody else has been leaving this community, we are one of the only founding organizations, founded by this community, that has remained,” Harvill said.