YMCA acquires Sandpoint West

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YMCA and Sandpoint West Athletic Club have announced the health club has been purchased by the organization and being transitioned into a YMCA. (Courtesy photo via SWAC website)

SANDPOINT — While the YMCA of the Inland Northwest has had a local presence through its youth development programs, Sandpoint has never had its own YMCA facility.

That will change next month, however, as YMCA has acquired the Sandpoint West Athletic Club.

“After being approached by the YMCA and long discussions, it was time for us to make this transition,” long-time SWAC owners Don and Sue Helander said in an email to club members on Thursday. “But it was important for us that they shared our values and would continue our commitment to our members and the community. We could not be more pleased that the Y will continue offering you a quality membership experience.

“It is time Sandpoint had a YMCA and we are confident this transition will meet both your needs and the needs of our community. The YMCA of the Inland Northwest has a long tradition of building and supporting community and I know they are very excited to join you here in Sandpoint.”

According to a statement by YMCA officials on Thursday, the transition is expected to occur in early December. Mary Berry, spokesperson for the YMCA of the Inland Northwest, said there should be little impact to SWAC’s current members throughout the process.

“It should be pretty seamless,” Berry said, adding the existing members will have to complete a membership application.

Members who provided an email should have received the news on Thursday, and letters were mailed out on Wednesday as well, Berry said. While Berry said pricing and other details are still being worked out, YMCA offers a sliding fee scale for membership based on household income.

The initial conversation about creating a community recreation center started in 2010, said Kendon Perry with Farm Bureau Financial Services, who serves as the YMCA Sandpoint advisory board chair. The group initially called themselves SPARC, and researched a number of locations in the community, as well as visited locations such as The WAVE in Whitefish, Mont., he said. The group then morphed into what is now the Sandpoint YMCA advisory board in 2014 and falls under the umbrella of the YMCA of the Inland Northwest, which is based in Spokane. Sandpoint will be their fifth branch, joining the North, Valley, Central and South Hill locations of Spokane.

“As far as the community is concerned, I think it means a lot and is good in that it will open up the doors of SWAC to virtually anybody and everybody who wants to participate in the programs, the facility, etcetera, regardless of their ability to pay or not pay,” Perry said.

The “wealth” of programs offered by YMCA will benefit the community as well he said, as they can partner with some of the programs already in Sandpoint, as well as add new ones. While it is unclear what programs will be offered in Sandpoint, the YMCA of the Inland Northwest is dedicated to the cause of “strengthening the foundations of community through youth development, healthy living and social responsibility,” according to the YMCA statement. As such, many of the programs available at other branches surround youth development, such as YMCA Earth Service Corps, Youth Leadership Spokane, homework clubs and the YMCA Leaders Club. Healthy living programs for children as well as adults include programs for cancer survivors, pathways to wellness, weight loss and more. Social responsibility features summer food programs, military appreciation month and a retired and senior volunteer program, among others.

The YMCA of the Inland Northwest has been a long-time sponsor of the Junior Tackle football program in Sandpoint, Perry said. The Junior Tackle program has provided access to hundreds of local youth, he said, and like the other YMCA programs, participation is open to all regardless of the ability to pay.

“Sandpoint Junior Tackle football is a great local example of ‘The YMCA Membership For All Program’ that clearly opens the door to everyone in our community and will provide activities for healthy living,” Perry said. “We previously ran a very brief summer day camp and look forward to partnering with the many great programs in our community as well as expanding programs and serving our community, especially the youth in our community.”

In the Helanders’ email, the couple thanked their members for being supportive over the years.

“Sue and I wish you all the best and we know you are in excellent hands for the future of your membership,” they said. “November will see few, if any, changes, and the Y will take you into the future beginning early December.”

Information on the YMCA of the Inland Northwest and its programs can be found at ymcaspokane.org.

Mary Malone can be found at mmalone@bonnercountydailybee.com and follow her on Twitter @MaryDailyBee.

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