Hard on the heels of the failed Harrison city special sales tax election for a recreation complex, Jeff Crockett, former Harrison mayor, said a group is scheduled to meet Monday night to discuss the possibility of trying to get a YMCA organization in Harrison again.
It’s not the first time such a proposal was made. The last time was in September 2011, during Crockett’s term as mayor.
Officials from the Ozark Regional YMCA based in Springfield, Missouri, met with about 20 people interested in starting a Y in Harrison.
The YMCA representative said the ORYMCA had programs in various cities in southwest Missouri. He said the Y doesn’t recruit cities or communities for membership, rather waiting for a community to contact the Y organization.
A YMCA is often thought of as a gymnasium with a pool, but the representative said the Y offers much more to communities.
For example, a Y might not even have a formal building at first. It could offer programs like English as a second language and even work to help a community with homelessness problems.
He said some community groups already in existence sometimes feel threatened by the formation of a Y, but he emphasized that a YMCA does not attempt to compete with any other organization.
Instead, Y groups work with schools, churches or any other entity to work on community problems.
But the most important thing a Y offers communities is leadership. It would be up to the community to decide what programs are most important.
The Harrison Parks Department, Consolidated Youth and other groups offer youth sports activities. The representative said the Y would not duplicate those programs, but enhance others to give youth, even adults, a feeling of involvement.
Still, it would have to be a community endeavor. At the September 2011 meeting, audience members offered names of individuals who might pledge financial support and the effort began.
A poll on the Harrison Daily Times website in September 2011 showed 120 people voted that a Y would be a great opportunity. Four people said it would require too much work to get started, 41 said very few people actually go to a YMCA and 29 others said there probably wouldn’t be much support.
When the move began, a committee was formed and it was tasked with raising $400,000 over a three year period. In December 2013 things changed.
Neil Elliott said at the time that supporters had accumulated about $300,000 in pledges over a three-year period and were getting ready for the community phase, when they would take the project to the public for the remaining $100,000.
But leadership of the YMCA Regional office changed a few months earlier and the interim director then said Harrison would have to have $320,000 up front in order to start a YMCA.
The effort then died.
But Crockett told the Daily Times on Wednesday that some members of the group originally trying to recruit a Y have been contacted to see if they would once again follow the plan.
The push for the new recreational complex showed there was a need for something like it in the community, although a majority of voters didn’t want to spend so much money.
So, he’s also been in contact with some of the people who were supporters of the city’s effort and invited them to attend Monday night’s meeting.
“At this point in time with the interest that we’ve had around town it might be a good time to pursue that,” Crockett said. “And it’s not going to cost the taxpayers a dime.”
The plan would be to solicit pledges until they reach the necessary threshold. At that point, contributors would be asked to convert those pledges to cash that would then be put into a bank account and YMCA officials would be contacted. If they aren’t interested then, all contributors would get their money back, Crockett said.
The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 18, at the Durand Center inside Crockett Tower, which Crockett owns. He invited anyone interested in the effort to attend.