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Hagerstown YMCA hosts grand opening ceremony

January 07, 2002

Hagerstown YMCA hosts grand opening ceremony



By TARA REILLY
tarar@herald-mail.com


The new YMCA in Hagerstown is a tool that will build strong kids, strong families and strong communities, Dave Long of YMCA of the USA told a crowd of about 150 people who gathered Sunday to watch the ribbon-cutting ceremony that kicked off the building's grand opening.

"The job really only begins today," Long said. "It doesn't end today."

The $7.1 million facility on 28 acres on Eastern Boulevard is known as the Richard A. Henson Family YMCA to honor Richard Henson of Salisbury, Md., for his $1 million donation to its building campaign.

The one-story YMCA is a 62,000-square-foot building with two pools, a double gymnasium, fitness center, child-care center, meeting rooms, teen and senior facilities, five locker rooms and administrative offices.

The new facility replaced the downtown six-story YMCA, which was built in 1920.

The new, larger facility will allow the organization to offer more services for children, the elderly and the disabled, YMCA officials have said.

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"This is what community is about," said Del. Chris Shank, R-Washington.

"This is a good day in the life of this community," said Sen. Donald Munson, R-Washington.

Munson thanked those involved with making the new building a reality, including the local delegation.

He said the delegation faced opposition from other state leaders while lobbying for funding for the new YMCA.

"These things just don't happen," Munson said. "These things happen because people make them happen. This delegation brought home the bacon."

Maryland House Speaker Casper R. Taylor made light of the snow that began falling minutes before the ceremony.

"If you're going to be stranded somewhere tonight, this is a great place to be stranded," Taylor said.

Michael Flicek, executive director of the YMCA, said the organization started off on the right foot since opening on Dec. 3. More than 1,500 people have joined, pushing the total membership to 5,300. The organization had 3,800 members in late November.

The organization's goal is to reach 5,500 members by the end of the year.

Bill Abeles Jr., vice president of the YMCA's board of trustees, said members are key to making a successful YMCA. He said membership dollars help the organization pay for scholarships and other programs.

"It truly is one of the draws that makes this community a great place to live," Abeles said.

YMCA organizers also thanked Henson for his large contribution toward the building campaign.

Henson, an aviation pioneer and former chief test pilot for Fairchild Aircraft, grew up in Hagerstown and spent his teen years as a member of the Hi-Y Club at the Hagerstown YMCA on North Potomac Street.

Henson, who is approaching his 92nd birthday, lives in Salisbury, and did not attend the grand opening ceremony.

He began his aviation career with a shuttle service from Hagerstown to Washington D.C., in 1962, then built a commuter airline, Henson Aviation Inc., that eventually served 42 cities. He sold the airline in 1983. The Hagerstown Regional Airport-Richard A. Henson Field is named after him.

He set up the Richard A. Henson Foundation in Salisbury in 1990, which provides donations to various organizations.

"He loved seeing buildings be built ... he would be very, very proud of what you've done here in Hagerstown," said Davis Ruark, president of the Henson Foundation.

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