Most people associate the Coosa Valley YMCA with swimming, weightlifting and sports. Although those activities are very popular at the YMCA, there is much more than meets the eye.
LeRoy Falcon became CEO/Executive Director of the “Y” in Gadsden in May 2007. He was recently named Director of the Year of the southeastern division of the YMCA for the improvements made in recent years to the Coosa Valley Y during his tenure as director. Since Falcon’s arrival, the Y has expanded to include various programs that focus on strengthening families and developing children.
“The Y is more than just swim and gym,” Falcon said. “We have many outreach programs aimed at the youth that are reinforced by positive spiritual messages. We also have new youth sports programs which allow kids to compete who have never been on a team or had a coach before. We also expanded our youth swim program to five days a week. It is a great opportunity for kids to get exercise under the supervision of a coach.”
Falcon’s itinerary also includes parents.
“The ‘Father’s Initiative’ program teaches dads how to get more involved in their kids lives. With divorce rates today being so high, families being split and people working a lot of hours, sometimes it is hard to remember to slow down and do something simple. We hope this program will allow busy dads to become more involved in their kids lives.”
“Father’s Initiative” includes “Adventure Guides,” which includes excursions out into the wild, scavenger hunts and campouts.
“Dads are busy working all the time, so the Y will plan the events and send emails to the dads who enroll in the program,” Falcon added. “It is a monthly program and there is no pressure to attend. The program is new, but we’ve had a great response to it thus far.”
The “Youth and Government” program is also gaining in popularity at the Y. The program targets local high school students who are interested in politics, debating and making a difference in their respective communities.
The program teaches kids to write and debate legislation. Students are taught how to write and debate legislative bills. The group participates and competes with other Y chapters across the state.
“We actually take the students to the statehouse in Montgomery every February and they debate and pass their bills,” Falcon said. “All the bills that pass vote actually go on to the real legislation for review.”
“The program has been in existence for over 60 years but was lying dormant when I arrived here a few years ago,” Falcon said. “We took about 20 students to Montgomery last year but I am expecting to fill a bus this year. Representative Craig Ford has been very supportive of the program and has spoken to the kids numerous times about his experiences in the statehouse. ”
Six schools that currently participate in Youth and Government are Gaston, Glencoe, Gadsden City, Coosa Christian, Southside and Hokes Bluff high schools.
“We are hoping to bring more schools into the programs,” Falcon added. “If we get all the Etowah County schools involved, we will probably be one of the larger delegations in Montgomery.”
When Falcon arrived in the summer of 2007 the Y was in dire need of facility repairs. General structural repairs and to the pool depleted any financial reserves the Y had set aside for maintenance. However, the facility has made vast economic improvements.
“Programatically we have grown, financially we’ve climbed out of the hole,” Falcon said. “We are not where we want to be financially, but we have eliminated a lot of debt. I hope that we are debt-free by next year with the exception of our mortgage (addition to the building).”
Falcon said the current national economic crisis should not deter members from attending the Y.
“We have discounted our fees when situations arise so that members can still attend the YMCA. We don’t want this economy to keep people away. We have even given scholarships (waived membership fees) to those in need. This is a community facility and we want the community here. Unavoidable financial woes should not keep people away.”
A Baton Rouge native and graduate of Louisiana State University, Falcon is an active member of his church and the Kiwanis Club. He is also a supporter of the local United Way and frequently speaks to the association.
“I have the luxury of coming to work and helping the community in whatever capacity I am needed.”