A crowd gathered along N. Hudson Street on Monday morning to celebrate the grand opening of the Litehouse Family YMCA.
Years in the making, the new facility is the product of a long search for the right location and then a fundraising campaign that was launched in the middle of a global pandemic. “Our first (capital campaign) meeting was the night before everything shut down,” said Ray Duimstra who helped lead the fundraising efforts.
Despite the obstacles, the new Litehouse Family YMCA finally came to fruition and is now open and available for existing and new members to enjoy.
Seeking the Perfect Location
For years, the Lowell Y has operated out of a suite in a strip mall on W. Main Street. The old facility had limited space for workout equipment and a “closet of a child care room,” as described by Scott Lewis, president and CEO of YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids.
It was no secret that the space was inadequate, but it took years for the Y and volunteers to secure a new property. At first, they had hoped to the use land they heard businessman and philanthropist Peter Wege had pledged for a community center in Lowell. However, when they approached his family after his passing, relatives were unaware of the commitment and had already sold the property.
In the years that followed, the Y looked at the former Unity High School building, the old Superior Furniture factory and the Noon property on Fulton Street across from Meijer. In each case, the property ended up not working out, but Duimstra said that while they weren’t right for the Lowell YMCA, they ended up being redeveloped in another way to benefit the community.
In the end, it was to the benefit of the Y that the Noon property wasn’t a good fit. Impact Church ended up buying the land and moving its congregation there. That put the former Impact Church building on Hudson Street on the market and ended a 10-year search by the Lowell Y for the perfect location.
Between private donations – including a major commitment from Litehouse – and grants from the state and Lowell Community Fund, the building went through a significant renovation.
Roomy Building Offers Ample Exercise Options
The Lowell Y is the second one to bear the name Litehouse. Evan Ormiston, director of plant operations for Litehouse in Lowell, told the crowd that supporting the YMCA aligns with the company’s High Five initiative and pledge to donate 5% of net income to children’s organizations. The first Litehouse Family YMCA was opened in 2018 in Sandpoint, Idaho.
Visitors to the Lowell Y will enter a roomy reception area, and the main exercise room is filled with numerous exercise and weight machines as well as free weights. There is also a large room for group exercise classes. The child care space alone looks to be almost as large as the entire previous Y location. Downstairs, there is a room for meetings and other classes such as Tae Kwon Do.
“We have an absolutely great community in Lowell, and I think this is a symbol of that,” said State Representative Thomas Albert during the grand opening ceremony.
Lewis added that the Litehouse Family YMCA is just one part of the organization’s commitment to serve area residents. He noted that the Y will next work to redevelop a house on the property into the YMCA Strong Kids Development Center. Once completed, it is expected to provide high-quality, licensed daycare to 50 children.
“It’s only just the beginning,” Lewis said, noting that the YMCA is more than a building. “The magic of the Y is what happens within these walls.”
To learn more about the Litehouse Family YMCA and its programs, visit the YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids website.