Chris Williams with Jeff and Kathy Smiley
Chris Williams, CEO of the Henry County YMCA, stands with Jeff and Kathy Smiley, local couple, who have gifted the organization tracts of land for expansion of the popular community organization. Their story together began 20 years ago.

YMCA Continues to Grow with Help from Friends

Thanks to people like Jeff and Kathy Smiley, the Henry County YMCA continues to thrive and grow.  They were there when the local Y was looking for a new location 20 years ago, donating five acres of land in Northfield Park, and they are there today, gifting land for the continued growth of the popular organization.

With capital campaigns to raise funds and with the help of donations from community members and others, the brand-new YMCA opened in 2004 with 2,000 members. Growth has more than doubled to 4,500 and it became clear that expansion was needed to keep up with services for members.

According to Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Chris Williams, “Several locations were considered for the site of a new YMCA 20 years ago, but a plus to the Smiley land was the Henry County Commissioners allowing the YMCA to use the adjacent land for our youth programming. The local YMCA agreed to the Smiley donation and, to prepare for future growth, we bought an additional acre on the north and south end of the building.”

“The concern for future space became more apparent with the start of the construction at Northfield Park with future housing, plus the realization that half of the future space for the Henry County YMCA could be used up on the south end of the building for a possible before and after school program.”

Williams and Jeff Smiley continued to talk frequently over the years about the Northfield development.  When he let Smiley know his concerns with the possible need for more space for future growth, Smiley told Chris about a possible space behind the current YMCA location.  As time went along, discussions with Jeff and Kathy Smiley and the YMCA Trustees and YMCA Board of Directors resulted in an agreement with the Smileys to provide additional land (approximately 2.5 acres) behind the Henry County YMCA for future growth at the current location.

“The land may not be immediately needed in the near future, but upcoming generations would look at our board and staff years down the road and think we were short sighted to not secure future space if the local YMCA continues to grow.  Plus, it is more cost efficient to staff one facility versus a second location across town,” said Williams.

He added, “On behalf of the Henry County YMCA we cannot thank Jeff and Kathy Smiley enough for their continued support of the Henry County YMCA.  Their support will allow us to expand the current location and leave options for future growth.”

This story was written by Beverly Matthews and originally published in The Courier-Times.