BRISTOL TOWNSHIP >> An exterior wall at the decades old YMCA in Fairless Hill came crumblin' down last week as part of a year-long renovation and revitalization project.
On Friday, February 26, the community celebrated a virtual groundbreaking with a Zoom call featuring dignitaries, videos and photos of the demolition, impact statements and more.
The event, held fully in virtual format, kicked off with a welcome by Debbie Sontupe, chief development officer of YMCA of Bucks County and recognition of the $4 million of Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) grants received from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Support for the project was echoed from Pennsylvania Senators Tommy Tomlinson (R-6) and Steve Santarsiero (D-10), who both appeared at the event via pre-recorded video messages.
Fran Cardaci, who serves as the chief volunteer officer for YMCA of Bucks County, spoke about the background of the project and history of service of the Y in Fairless Hills with a special moment of appreciation for the Lower Bucks regional board and association wide board of directors who made the renovation possible. She introduced a key project partner, NovaCare Rehabilitation, represented by Dan Bradley, president of Select Medical Outpatient Division of NovaCare, who will run rehabilitation services within the new branch when completed.
“The partnership with the Y exemplifies two cultures that have come together, serving those who need us,” said Bradley. “This is an opportunity for both of use to give back to the community.”
President/CEO of YMCA of Bucks County, Zane Moore spoke about the difficult year the entire community has had and the resilience and impact the Y has shown through it all. He also reflected on the long history of the Y in Lower Bucks County and the historic beginnings of the organization.
“In 1936, twelve Bristol High School boys approached a faculty member and expressed their interest in after-school recreation. This was the start of the YMCA of Bucks County,” said Moore “In 1959, a groundbreaking ceremony was held. Sixty-one years later, the Y has stood the test of time.”
The program included a proclamation and flag, flown over The United State Capitol provided by Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick in recognition of “breaking-ground on the renovations at the Fairless Hills location and for your outstanding service to our community.” In a poignant moment, Moore also recognized the late Mike Fitzpatrick, longtime PA 8th congressional district representative who was a champion for the Y and a former Lower Bucks Family YMCA board member.
Todd Hurley, chief volunteer officer of the Lower Bucks Regional Advisory Board of Directors for YMCA of Bucks County, spoke about the importance and impact of the Y in Fairless Hills and thanked the renovation project partners.
“Last year, we served close to 10,000 members, over 1700 were seniors. We served over 900 children in our child care and camp programs,” said Hurley. “This organization and this building are so important to Lower Bucks County.”
The impact of the Y in Lower Bucks County was a main theme of the event in the presentations and in a video featuring Amy Kenny, longtime member of the Fairless Hills branch, “not just a community gathering place, it became like family,” said Kenny. “I cannot wait to get back to feel that Cheers-like experience where everyone knows your name.”
Tom Lynch of the Danaher Lynch Family Foundation, spoke of his time as a teenager and playing basketball at the Y. Now years later with wife Patty Danaher Lynch, Lynch is a strong supporter of the Y.
“You spend time with the people who mean so much to you and build a foundation for your life,” said Lynch. “The community can’t do without these services. It is a pleasure and a joy for us to be affiliated with the Y and they can count on our support.”
Longtime supporters of the Y, Fred Beans and Beth Beans Gilbert attended and provided remarks about the importance of supporting the Y in Lower Bucks.
“This is a key project for the Fred Beans Automotive Group,” said Beans Gilbert, then introducing Fred Beans.
“We’ve always been interested in supporting any community where we have a business. It’s the right thing to do,” said Beans. “We think the Y is a very important part of Bucks County.”
Appreciation was shown for all donors to the project with many key donors being recognized. The community was invited to financially support the project and an early concept of the community mosaic, an art piece to be displayed in the renovated facility and recognizing gifts in the $1,500 to $10,000 was shared.
The event culminated with a video of the demolition of two of the main walls at the branch and the unveiling of the architectural plans.
Fairless Hills Renovation Project
The $12 million project, a complete renovation of the existing building located at 601 S. Oxford Valley Road, includes reconfiguring the space within the building to gain additional usable square footage, while at the same time decreasing the building footprint to create additional and much needed parking.
The gymnasium, walking track and pool will be painted and refreshed with an observation area added to the aquatics center.
Plans also include an expansion of the fitness center to accommodate additional cardio equipment and free weight space and a dedicated space for NovaCare Rehabilitation.
Additionally, a new universal locker room with private changing rooms is being constructed and the exterior of the building will undergo a facelift. The building will be completely ADA accessible.