THE town was given a £1.7 million boost on Thursday with the opening of the new state-of-the-art YMCA building.
Education Minister John O’Dowd joined International Fund for Ireland Chairman Dr Adrian Johnston to officially open the new facility in Carnegie Street.
The new 11,000 square foot purpose-built centre brings the work of Lurgan YMCA from two separate sites at each side of the town centre into one and is located at what many see as the interface between the two communities in Lurgan. The new complex includes a new climbing wall, meeting rooms, facilities for various youth programmes and, to generate a long-term income, retail units.
The relocation is a significant step for cross-community relations in the town and enables Lurgan YMCA to increase its work and deliver activities to tackle sectarianism and promote understanding between all sections of the community.
Hugo Dale, Chief Executive of Lurgan YMCA, said: “This is one of the most exciting projects in the Lurgan area in years. It opens up many opportunities to meet the needs of various groups and individuals and to build good relations and social inclusion within our community.
“The extra space also means that we can now organise more than one activity at any time. We will work towards providing more experiences and challenges to inspire all our users to meet their full potential. We are very grateful to all our funders for making the new building possible and we look forward to carrying on our work for generations to come.”
As well as representatives from a number of organisations in the Lurgan area being present, Tim Shetzner had travelled from Lurgan YMCA’a partner organisation Central Stark County YMCA in Ohio to be at the event.
He said: “What you’ve accomplished here in a short space of time is amazing. Ten or 12 of my staff from Ohio have visited here. Each time they come back they say, ‘What can we do to be work like them?’”
Further financial assistance was provided by the Department of Education, Laing Trust, Ulster Garden Villages and a number of other organisations, individuals and charitable trusts.
Education Minister John O’Dowd, who officially opened the new facility, said: “I welcome the opening of new facilities for Lurgan YMCA and believe it has the potential to have a lasting positive impact upon the lives of local young people.
“I am committed to ensuring that young people have such opportunities to mix, learn and develop positive relationships together, whether that be in school or in more informal settings such as this.”
Speaking at the launch event, Dr Adrian Johnston, Chairman of the International Fund for Ireland said: “The YMCA’s cross-community activity is central to the Fund’s objectives of delivering sustainable, long-term positive impacts that can transform communities. This is an exceptional facility and one of the most significant moves in improving cross-community relations in a local town for quite some time.”
At Lurgan YMCA a school drop-in session will be made available as will courses such as diversity and conflict management and leadership programmes as well as becoming a real community facility for people of all ages. Outreach work will be developed as will responding to requests from an increasing number of schools for community relations work. It’s programme of activities will also include canoeing, wall climbing, cooking classes, knitting, crocheting, mothers and toddlers, senior citizens group, new evening entertainment such as acoustic sessions and a YES Programme for disabled children.
To find out more about what Lurgan YMCA has to offer you telephone 028 3882 1025 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for further details.
SDLP’s Dolores Kelly and Ulster Unionist Jo-Anne Dobson were among the MLAs who welcomed the new YMCA building.