Meet me at the Y. Soccer Saturdays at the Y. Healthy Kids Day at the Y. Weekly workouts with neighbors at the Y. For thousands of East Cobbers, these activities are a regular part of their routine. The McCleskey-East Cobb YMCA has been a fixture of the East Cobb lifestyle for longer than many residents in our community can remember.
But there are neighbors who do remember life before the Y was built at the corner of Roswell and East Piedmont roads. In fact, before the Y was built, East Piedmont was just a gravel road, according to Tom McCleskey, the first director of the Y bearing his name.
The East Cobb YMCA, christened the McCleskey- East Cobb YMCA in 2005 when Tom McCleskey retired, was built to fulfill a need for a family-friendly community center in rapidly growing East Cobb County. Though the Y has had a presence in Cobb County since 1954, it wasn’t until 1983 that they moved from the location on Highway 41 to a temporary administrative facility in Sprayberry Crossing, near the intersection of Sandy Plains and East Piedmont Roads. At just 1,200 square feet, the Sprayberry Crossing facility was only a place for administrative tasks. Organized activities took place in borrowed spaces around town like churches and parks. McCleskey remembers vividly the disappointment that met residents who were familiar with “the Y lifestyle” when they arrived at the facility.
“They would pile the family in the car to go the YMCA, and couldn’t believe it when they pulled up to find a building with only desks,” McCleskey said. To fulfill the need of creating a functioning YMCA in East Cobb, a massive fundraising campaign had to take place. The cost of the East Cobb YMCA was $6 million, of which $2.5 million was raised, the largest fundraising effort in Cobb County at that time.
McCleskey credits three East Cobb individuals with seeing the project to fruition – Earl Smith, the former chairman of the Cobb County Commission; Jack Demerest, formerly of First Atlanta Bank; and Barbara Williams, a former State Farm Agent who has served on the Cobb County Commission and as a board member at the Cobb Galleria Authority.
“If those three people didn’t step forward, (the Y) would never have been built,” McCleskey said. The YMCA was built on land acquired from East Cobber Robert Moon, who lived off of Roswell Road until his death in the early 1990s. The original building opened in April 1989. Though the original structure has remained largely unchanged, two major renovations have added group exercise areas, climbing walls, playground equipment and childcare spaces. Three years ago the purchase of the adjacent eight acre Hembree Farm allowed for expansion of the soccer fields and parking as well as room for future growth.
According to McCleskey, the original vision was to establish a “Main Street” type of gathering place here
residents could congregate, hold meetings, participate in a healthy lifestyle and develop roots in the community.
Twenty-five years later, that community-building mission is still a primary focus at the Y.
“The Y is a cornerstone of all of the development in East Cobb,” said Becky Shipley, executive director of the McCleskey-East Cobb and Northeast Cobb YMCAs. In addition to organized sports, group exercise and fitness opportunities, Shipley said the activities of the Y transition based on the needs of the current community.
For 2015, community activities will include sports leagues, Healthy Kids Day, the Halloween Spectacular, Cookies with Santa, Middle School nights and the creation of a Teen Leadership Board, where local youth can become involved in government and civic activities.
The McCleskey-East Cobb YMCA serves 12,000 members/3,000 families. A family membership costs $84 and includes two parents, one grandparent and all the children in the family. During the month of January, the $99 admission fee will be waived. Shipley said that no family is ever turned away because of financial reasons and a sliding scaled based on income is available.
For more about the McCleskey-East Cobb YMCA, visit www.ymcaatlanta.org/mcy.
(Reprinted from the January issue of EAST COBBER. Written by Elizabeth G. Wentz.)