Former West YMCA building gets overhaul

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 25, 2012

CLEVELAND — Hundreds of volunteers ranging in age from 8 to 82 have shown up at the former West Rowan YMCA during the past several months to lend their time and talent.
After Cornerstone Church bought the facility for $25,000 in September, Pastor Bill Godair asked church members for help renovating the space, which will become a sports, education and cultural center named The Hub.
The building at 603 E. Main St. stood vacant during the more than five years since the YMCA branch shut down in June 2007.
“It was totally overgrown as far as trees and bushes, so we started out by just taking that stuff down,” Godair said.
Volunteers have painted the trim along the exterior of the brick building and completely overhauled the parking lot, resurfacing and restriping it.
“A good healthy dose of paint does wonders,” said Bud Samples, the church’s maintenance director.
The church shelled out about $10,000 to fill in the swimming pool. That area will eventually be landscaped to become a courtyard filled with benches for reading or simply relaxing.
The outside basketball court also received a facelift.
“They were totally rusted out,” Godair said. “We repainted all that and put new chains up.”
Godair said 40 local teens have already been using the court.
“They have been so thankful,” he said. “Every time we would go up there, there would be trash all over the basketball court, but since we cleaned it up, it’s stayed that way.
“I think they feel a sense of pride in the place now that it’s been painted and new nets are up.”
Volunteers have removed the chain-link fence that surrounded the facility.
“It made it look like a prison,” Godair said. “Just taking that fence down has really opened that property up to the community.”
Inside the building, Godair said volunteers have been cleaning feverishly.
The gym has been painted blue and white, a color scheme Godair said was originally in the building.
“We opted to keep those colors because it’s been that way for years,’ he said.
Volunteers are installing energy-efficient thermal windows as a cost-saving measure.
The ceilings of both of the foyers leading into the gym have been completely ripped down and replaced. They also have a fresh coat of paint and new tile floors.
Godair said the gym floor will eventually be redone, but that could take a while.
“The floor has a lot of moisture right now because it’s been sitting there for five years with no heat,” he said. “Hopefully, it will be done by the spring.”
Samples said the volunteer crews have fixed all of the building’s roofing issues.
“Nobody has been maintaining it for years, so we wanted to be sure there were no leaks,” he said.
Calvin Willis, the church’s children’s pastor, has been leading the volunteer effort and said it’s amazing to see how much the facility has changed in a few months.
“I know we’re making a difference because the community just seems so appreciative of what we’re doing,” he said.
Willis said when he first started working on the project he was hesitant to get involved because it was so far away from his Concord home. But his mind has changed during the process.
“The community is excited that their children will have a safe, clean place to play, I think that’s why I do it,” he said. “Every day I work out there, people come up and say, ‘Thank you.’ ”
Godair said more than 125 volunteers have shown up during each of the four weekend cleanup sessions at the building.
Church members have already logged 7,000 hours cleaning, painting and upfitting the facility, and the church has poured $50,000 into the renovation project.
“People have a heart to want to give back and it’s been evident here,” he said.
Godair said the project has unified the church, allowing people who were once strangers the opportunity to become friends.
“Even though we’re out here doing this for the community, it’s actually helping us as a church,” he said. “They are building relationships. It’s just awesome.”
Before Cornerstone decided to buy the property, Godair said there were plans in the works to build a church in Guatemala.
“We opted to do something locally versus going overseas,” he said. “It’s amazing how it’s all worked out. We’re blessed as a congregation to have this opportunity.”
Although it’s uncertain when the building will be ready to open up to the community, Godair said he’s already preparing for that day.
He asked for a list of equipment used by the YMCA of Rowan County and created two “sports trees” at Cornerstone Church. Similar to the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program, church members can pick an item off the tree to buy for the facility.
“We wanted everything to be uniform and professional, so this Christmas season we decided to give back to Cleveland,” he said. “Instead of giving to one kid, we are giving back to the whole community.”
Godair said the church has already received thousands of dollars worth of equipment donations.
Godair said he’d like to team up with Rowan Public Library to open up a west Rowan branch inside The Hub.
“We don’t need all that space. We could give them 10,000 square feet,” he said.
But a library isn’t the only thing Godair hopes to add to the facility. He plans to work with various nonprofit groups to bring their services to that portion of the county.
“We want people to know it’s not about Cornerstone; this is about blessing this community,” Godair said. “If they do work on this side of the county and need space, we’re willing to talk to them.
“We just want this to become the hub for western Rowan County,” he said.
“The response has been phenomenal.”

Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.