Niles-Buchanan YMCA unveils new youth, teen areas at ribbon-cutting ceremony

Published 1:27 pm Wednesday, October 13, 2021

NILES — A new addition to a local nonprofit was celebrated with much fanfare Tuesday evening.

Community members from Niles, Buchanan and the beyond attended the Niles-Buchanan YMCA expansion ribbon-cutting ceremony at 905 N. Front St., Niles.

Guests were able to tour the $2.6 million expansion, which features 14,000 additional square feet to the YMCA facility and includes a new gymnasium, a teen and youth room, a fitness studio and new office space.

“The Y is really the envy of all the communities in the region,” said South Bend Regional Chamber President and CEO Jeff Rea. “There are cities much bigger than Niles and Buchanan that would kill for facilities like this and that’s a credit to the great leadership here not only in the community but at the Y as well. I think all of the patrons here at the Y would tell you what a special place this is and how grateful they are to the staff and team for making this such a wonderful experience.”

Niles Community Schools Superintendent Dan Applegate shared his enthusiasm for what the expansion will mean not only for NCS students but students throughout the area.

“Niles Community Schools and Buchanan and Brandywine Community Schools have partnered with the YMCA for years,” he said. “We’ve been so fortunate for the partnership and bringing innovative programming and benefits for children to our community. We’ve been so fortunate for Mark, his team and all of the teams in the community area. The kids really need a place to belong, and you made sure their developmental needs and their interests were all met at this place reserved for them. This is a landmark demonstration to our teenagers that this community cares.”

YMCA of Greater Michiana CEO Mark Weber is happy to see a project five years in the making reach its conclusion. According to Weber, 100 percent of the facility’s costs were covered by donations from the greater Niles community.

“That tells me that the community feels there is a need for a space for youth and teens in this community,” he said.

Denise Peters has been a member of the Niles community for years. As the Niles-Buchanan YMCA’s Vice President of Programs, she believes the expansion will pay dividends for the community’s youth.

“My kids grew up here, I have grandkids, and I coached in this community for over 20 years,” she said. “This has been a need for this community for so long. It’s been a wish. I know a lot of great people have really worked hard with this, and for this to come to fruition to meet some of the community’s needs is super exciting.”

For Peters, the YMCA is a space where generations of community members go to improve their minds and their bodies. The expansion will give area youth and teens the extra space they need for programming and more.

“I got emotional earlier because now I’m seeing kids that I coached and I see their kids come here,” she said. “We have about 85 in our after-school program, and we have 35 to 65 kids in our gym at any given night playing basketball. We’re looking at giving them an opportunity to have a space because sometimes they can’t get in the schools because the school’s gyms are crowded.”

With the expansion, the YMCA will be able to add several additional hours of youth programming every week. Zechariah Hoyt, executive director of youth programs at the YMCA of Greater Michiana, envisions the new space as a place for kids to build relationships with one another.

“What we’re really excited about is the opportunity to give those kids people in front of them to develop relationship opportunities for them to develop relationship opportunities for them to be successful and see where that takes us,” he said. “The dreams we have are starting to come to fruition but I can tell you the dreams our youth have that they’ve helped us program and contribute to this space have been really cool and we’re able to meet their needs.”