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We believe the values and skills learned early on are vital building blocks for life. At the Y, children and teens learn values and positive behaviors that makes for confident kids today and contributing and engaged adults tomorrow.
Originally a group met in the early 1970s to discuss the idea of a YMCA and in 1982, an exploratory committee was formed, but the recession hit hard and the person heading up the group moved away. In 1986, Marilyn was brought into the meetings. Many in the group were heads of Human Resource departments of local companies. These early meetings were conducted at Weyerhaeuser where Hank Goldberg of Weyerhaeuser’s HR Department was "very instrumental," according to Marilyn.
A feasibility study was done to determine if Marshfield residents would support a YMCA. A public meeting was held at Marshfield Senior High School. A large turnout of people heard reasons for a YMCA and answered survey questions. According to Marilyn, the support was "overwhelming." A Milwaukee YMCA staff person was present to explain that a YMCA should not start with a building, but with programs. Pledges in the amount of $243,798 were easily raised to hire a director and set up programs. Will Mason was hired out of St. Paul where he had helped with campaigns and building programs. Michelle Laehn Boehrnke, the first full-time employee, set up and supervised programs.
John Figi, who owned Central Plaza at the time, gave office space to the YMCA. He would later be the first person honored as Volunteer of the Year by the Marshfield Area YMCA. The YMCA operated from Central Plaza until the building was built. While in Central Plaza, the YMCA managed the racquetball court and tennis court until the City of Marshfield bought the building in 1989. After the programs were set up, a feasibility study was done to see if money could be raised for a building. The project was set in motion by a generous donation of $1 million for a swimming pool from W.D. Connor, who wanted Marshfield area youth to have a place to swim, something he never had when he was growing up. Of this lead gift, Marilyn said, "I think we all cried."
When asked about the original debt of the building. Marilyn couldn’t recall exactly, except that it was between $750,000 and $900,000. She remembered many employers who supported the building of the YMCA, believing it would be an asset to recruit quality personnel. The building campaign was conducted out of a small office in Central Plaza, chaired by Don Younker, Felker Bros. CEO.
Site selection took a long time. North? South? Downtown? It was decided to build on the north side because of surveys. Marilyn talked about the development of the north side during the middle 70s. Due to a state DOT grant, McMillan Street was paved. Marilyn was on the City Council at the time when then City Engineer Dick Schneider commented, "Once we pave McMillan, the north side will really happen." The land on which the YMCA stands today was personally owned by the 3 original owners of the Dental Clinic. Jerry Hagman negotiated to sell the land to the YMCA. Marilyn recalls the price of the land being "very reasonable."
In this Marshfield News-Herald photograph from June 1988, then YMCA Executive Director Will Mason and YMCA Chairman of the Board of Directors Marilyn Hardacre check out the preliminary plans for the YMCA on the recently-purchased 7-acre lot on West McMillan Street.
The YMCA Board of Directors was carefully chosen to get a broad spectrum of the community. The board’s first meeting was at the Depot Restaurant.
"In 1986, a number of people in Marshfield came together to start a YMCA... I was honored to be selected as one of the founding Board members of the Marshfield Area YMCA. We believed that there was a distinct need for the programs, services and facility that the YMCA would bring. The initial years were spent providing programs and activities for children and adults by renting space in various locations to hold YMCA programs... After a year or two of renting space for programs, it was obvious we needed to build our own YMCA facility. The Board and many others in our community were a part of the process to build the YMCA building. Key activities included the space needs assessment, facility planning and design, fundraising for the facility, working with the local banks for the loan, all the while providing programs and services at other locations. The wonderful YMCA facility was developed and built through the dedicated work of many people.
Twenty years later, after a major addition, the YMCA serves over 6,400 members, providing a wide range of programs and services to children, men, women and families. I continue to exercise at the YMCA several times a week and I experience first-hand the important role that the Marshfield Area YMCA has in our community."
(Recalls being with friends at a local country club when it was suggested that the community could use another place for community exercise.) " ‘Let’s do it,’ I said... Four weeks later the four of us are in the Weyerhaeuser board room along with four other like-minded people... writing down all the needs for the community center: swimming pools, basketball court, running track, weight room, weight machines, whirlpool, racket courts, meeting rooms, aerobic area, locker rooms, should be open all the time so shift workers can exercise after work, and should be affordable for everyone... We made contact with the national YMCA and despite their initial doubts we persevered and won their approval for a non-facility YMCA which would rent office space and provide programs for the community in existing structures for a number of years to develop presence in the community. We were on a roll, and though it was not the brick and mortar we envisioned, it was a beginning of a process that we hoped would take us to the BUILDING... Five and a half years later... I am standing in the lobby of the new YMCA building anxious to swim in the pool, but the festivities come first with the thanks and congratulations passed around to the donors, fund-raisers, board members, their wives and anyone remotely connected to this accomplishment - the building and opening of the Marshfield Area YMCA."