Shelby allocates #036;250,000 to new YMCA

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 12, 2005

U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Tuscaloosa) visited Greenville Tuesday afternoon and left some people associated with the YMCA in a state of shock.

Following a town hall meeting at the Greenville Depot, Shelby took a tour of the new Greenville YMCA facility at the old Greenville Academy campus.

The YMCA signed a lease purchase agreement last year with Greenville Academy where the Y could purchase the building and grounds for $600,000. After touring the facility and seeing all the improvements, Shelby dropped a bombshell telling those gathered that he would commit $250,000 to help with the project.

The news caught some a little off guard, but left a lot of smiles and some tears.

&uot;I just couldn’t believe it when I heard him say it,&uot; said Greenville YMCA Executive Director Amanda Phillips. &uot;I felt like he would help us, but I had no clue that he would come through with almost half our debt. After those thoughts, I did my usual thing, which is cry.&uot;

One of the former custodians of Greenville Academy also expressed his pleasure over the announcement.

&uot;I am glad to see some federal money is going to come to Greenville and promote the YMCA, a fine Christian organization that helps our children,&uot; said Randy Beeson, a former member of the board of Greenville Academy, who helped with the transition of the property to the YMCA. &uot;I was concerned about how they were going to get some of their funding and that commitment is a tremendous boost to them. They were lucky enough through our loss of Greenville Academy they were able to secure a 19 acre facility. That (money) would enable them to make a lot more improvements and keep them from having to borrow any money to pay on the purchase price.&uot;

Allen Stephenson, who has been helping lead the capital fundraising initiative for the new YMCA was left nearly speechless by the senator’s generous act.

&uot;We’re elated, more because he saw that the community was coming together, that we weren’t asking for a handout,&uot; said Stephenson, who is president of the Greenville YMCA board of directors. &uot;We knew if we could get him to come and see it he would be impressed.&uot;

Stephenson said he thought the Christian environment the YMCA is providing to its current membership and the families it serves through daycare was a big selling point.

&uot;By explaining that we offered faith based, quality daycare that could really impact the community, he saw that as something Washington (DC) wanted to hear,&uot; he said. &uot;We weren’t asking for a handout, just a hand-up, something that we could use to help ourselves and each other.&uot;

Stephenson said Senator Shelby’s commitment was greatly needed and appreciated, but more is needed to help finish the facility.

&uot;The job’s just half through and we’ve got to find more help,&uot; he said. &uot;But I’m encouraged and I know the (Montgomery YMCA) is impressed with what we are doing. There’s a lot more we can do, and will do, but this is a great start.&uot;

Mayor Dexter McLendon said Shelby’s visit to the YMCA reminded him of the time the senator visited the Greenville airport, and then responded by helping allocate funds for improvements that helped jumpstart the recent economic growth the city and county have seen.

&uot;I think that was the whole key to it,&uot; said McLendon of Shelby’s commitment to the airport. &uot;He has the vision of the importance of things like this in a town our size. The airport was the starting point, and it ran through my mind that the day I took him to the airport reminded me of how it was today at the Y. In the past I didn’t think we did a very good job of asking our U.S. Senators for help and Senator Shelby has sure been a great friend to Greenville and Butler County.&uot;

As for the Y, McLendon was pleased.

&uot;When a U.S. Senator sees a community come together and work on a project like they’re doing at the YMCA, I think that’s the reason he made the commitment he did.&uot; said McLendon. &uot;I’m just glad Allen Stephenson didn’t pass out when Senator Shelby committed the funds.&uot;

One of Shelby’s aides traveling with him said Shelby had visited approximately 30 counties so far on his tour of Alabama and so far the funds dedicated to the Greenville YMCA was the first such commitment the senator had made.

The funds come at a crucial time for the Y program as operations are set to go forward.

Phillips said she and the board anticipated that improvements made to the old Greenville Academy building would cost approximately $100,000, but have ballooned to more than $300,000 to bring the building up to code and to be cleared to be a DHR approved childcare provider.

Earlier at the town hall meeting, Shelby spoke to a near capacity crowd of residents, business leaders, local leaders and a group of seventh graders from Fort Dale Academy.

He thanked Butler County for supporting him with nearly 68 percent of the votes cast in the county in his reelection bid.

One of the hot topics of late in town was the visit by Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin.

Alabama Power Company representative Judy Gettys asked Shelby about his feelings on Feingold’s commentary and he did not hide his disdain for his peer.

&uot;I know I wouldn’t go up there and say things that were less than complimentary of his state,&uot; he said.

&uot;He used the opportunity to take potshots and when I found out about it I felt like I had to respond.&uot;

Shelby said he, like everyone present at the meeting, are aware of negative things about the city and state, but that it takes hard work to make things happen.

Another issue Shelby discussed was the tension between the U.S. and North Korea.

A seventh grade student, who is from South Korea, brought up the issue.

&uot;South Korea is booming, while North Korea is foundering,&uot; Shelby said.

&uot;I believe they have an irrational leader and we think they have nuclear weapons. As long as North Korea is belligerent, we have going to have problems.

However, North Korea should never think that we will ever be intimidated by them.&uot;

Shelby is

Alabama’s senior senator and was just sworn in last week for his fourth term. Before being elected to the Senate Shelby served four terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, and prior to that, spent eight years in the Alabama legislature.

For the 108th Congress Shelby is Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee. For the past eight years, Shelby served on the Senate Select Intelligence Committee. In this capacity he studied, oversaw, and monitored all facets of national security. Due to term limits set by Senate Rules, Shelby stepped down from the committee at the beginning of the 108th Congress.

A fourth generation Alabamian, Shelby is a graduate of the University of Alabama’s undergraduate and law programs. He and his wife, Annette Nevin Shelby, have two sons; Richard Jr. and Claude Nevin. Claude and his wife Lisa have one daughter, Anna Elizabeth Shelby, and one son, William Nevin Shelby.

Publisher Dennis Palmer contributed to this report.