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Halls YMCA branching out
Facility will service more counties, receive new name
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The Hall County YMCA is getting a new name.

Beginning Jan. 1, the organization will be called the Georgia Mountains YMCA, serving communities across Northeast Georgia.

In addition to expanding existing services in Hall County, the new Georgia Mountains YMCA will take responsibility for Gilmer, Fannin, Union, Towns, Dawson, Lumpkin and White counties.

"This is exciting because so many people have expressed interest in the Y," said Mike Brown, chief executive officer of the Hall County YMCA. "We’ll be able to come in there and provide programming that some of these communities do not even have."

In July, Brown asked the YMCA of the USA in Chicago for a change in name and scope of work for the Hall group. The request was approved Oct. 29.

With the change, Brown said the organization will be able to expand services such as after school programs, day camp and sports programming, and build additional facilities.

There will be two chartered branches: the J.A. Walters branch and the Hall County Community YMCA, both of which currently exist.

In addition to the community branch, Brown said there is potential to have five YMCA facilities throughout the Northeast Georgia community.

"The Y is growing in this community," he said.

Hall County accounts for 55 percent of the nearly 400,000 people in the seven counties that the YMCA will serve.

"We’ll stay strong here, but there’s another 45 percent of that total population and six additional counties we can now serve," Brown said.

Brown said the first step is to begin contacting community groups to determine both interest and need.

Focus groups, committees and boards will be put together in each community and the YMCA will start providing basic program services "to rally those communities together," Brown said.

If those committees respond positively, he said that could mean potential donors or volunteers who might be able to provide office space for the organization to start operating its programs in 2008.

Brown said there could even be opportunities in Hiawassee or areas around the northern part of Lake Lanier for the organization to look for land to start a resident camp.

"There are some opportunities to do more adventure-type programming for kids that we haven’t done in the past, either," he said.

Brown said the work in Hall does not come to a stop even as the YMCA expands its programs and services in six additional counties.

The new J.A. Walters Family YMCA, which opened in July, is still accepting memberships and has enrolled more than 1,800 families. The existing Youth and Community Services Branch in Gainesville serves 27 elementary and middle schools and 1,600 kids each day in various programs.

Each YMCA branch will have an executive director to lead the operation, along with newly hired Chief Operations Officer Gwen Bagley, who joined the team after serving the YMCA in California for 17 years.

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