OUR Y HISTORY
How the YMCA Came to Stevens Point
In the late 1960s, Stevens Point people were talking about the need for a YMCA. Nobody knows the identity of the dreamers. But the identity of the people who provided the spark towards reality is well-known. The two most enthusiastic movers were Chan Copps, an officer of the Copps Corporation, and Gerry O’Brien, attorney. Their early leadership started the fire in the fall of 1967.
The first formal meeting of a YMCA Board of Directors was called by them on October 30, 1967, in the Boulevard Room at the Whiting Motor Hotel. Directors included:
Chan Copps, President
Gerry O'Brien, Vice President
Pastor Ted Schwartz, Secretary
John McComb, Treasurer
Dr. Fritz Reichardt
This Board then selected a Board of Trustees consisting of 19 outstanding residents whose civic spirit had been instrumental in many other community accomplishments. John Joanis, President of Sentry Insurance, was elected President of the Trustees. Gordon Copps, President of Copps Corporation, was elected Secretary.
1968 was the most critical year in the birth of the Stevens Point Area YMCA. There was much effort, legwork, and jaw-work prior to the memo to Directors written on May 14, 1968, by an excited Chan Copps. Parts of the memo tell the story; “I am happy to report to you that since your challenge last winter, Gerry O’Brien and I have spoken about the “Y” project to over 1,200 people. The response has been outstanding. We have over $7,500 now….it is my sincere hope that this meeting will have the Y effort on its feet. That, as a result of this meeting, we will be able to raise enough money to hire a YMCA Secretary.”
- His prediction was completely accurate, the YMCA's first Executive Director, Robert C. Wartinbee, was hired in January 1969.
- The organization was chartered on June 19, 1969.
- A $50/month lease with cordial City Hall to use the Southside fire station on Strongs Avenue was signed.
- 1,303 charter members joined in 1969
- Revenues totaled $38,057.72 and expenditures reached $36,208.08.
Building Fund Campaign
Membership response and needs for more facilities and programs generated the drive for a YMCA facility. In May 1972, a Building Fund Committee was formed. An unusual set of circumstances that involved the two campus parochial secondary schools, enabled the YMCA to purchase the Pacelli High School property. The “Triple Play”, as it was called, was favored by each of the three groups involved -- The YMCA, Sisters of St. Josephs and the Diocese of LaCrosse.
The Building Campaign, under the general chairman, Carl N. Jacobs, sought a minimum of $982,125 for purchase, renovation, and construction. The YMCA immediately began construction of a swimming pool and locker rooms. In April 1979, the board approved the addition of four racquetball courts.
In May 1975, the YMCA’s first Executive Director was succeeded by Gile E. Sievers. In January 1982, Gile Sievers was succeeded by LeRoy “Andy” Anderberg. In 1982, the YMCA developed the “Heritage Club” program to provide endowment funds for the future development of the YMCA. Heritage Club development team consisted of Len DeBaker, Bob Taylor, Gene Katz, Edie Krause, John Noel and Jay Warner. The Heritage Club had grown to 69 participants by 1987 with $150,000 of actual funds. The YMCA Foundation assets topped the $1,000,000 mark in 2018. In 1987, Dan Newhouse became the new Executive Director/CEO and developed the plan for the new addition to the YMCA facility featuring a new Aquatic Center. In 2004, Dave Morgan was appointed the new President/CEO. Dave remained as the CEO until his departure on February 18, 2018. Sharon Johnson began as the new President/CEO and first female leader of the organization on June 18, 2018. After Sharon Johnson resigned her position, Ryan Zietlow became the new President/CEO on August 1, 2022.
In 1985, another major project was undertaken. In order to continue to meet the growing needs of its membership, the YMCA accepted the challenge of raising capital funds to renovate and upgrade the aging facility. Vern Holmes and John Joanis were co-chairmen. Shortly thereafter, the community was set back by the sudden death of John in the fall of 1985. With an original goal of $985,000, the YMCA was able to raise $1.2 million in a very successful campaign. In April 1987, Andy Anderberg was succeeded by Dan Newhouse. At the same time, the building renovation began with the John Joanis Fitness Center. Several other additional projects were completed through 1990.
Under Newhouse’s leadership, the YMCA refocused on youth programming. In 1987, the YMCA assumed the leadership of the Portage County Teen Program. Then two years later, the Stevens Point Special Olympics program came to the YMCA for organizational leadership and the YMCA accepted the challenge. In the spring of 1990, a new Child Development Department was formed to address the needs of child care programming. The YMCA received three government grants to develop a School-Age Child Care (SACC) program serving three schools in the Plover area. A new sport, indoor soccer, was added to the year-round Youth Sports menu. LIVESTRONG® at the YMCA and YMCA Diabetes Prevention Program (YDPP) were added in 2011 and 2012 on an unprecedented journey in its battle against chronic diseases. LIVESTRONG® at the YMCA, added in 2011, supports a cancer survivors battle through the recovery of treatment while YDPP (2012) will help adults change behavior in order to prevent the onset of Type 2 diabetes.
In 2010, the Y purchased 93 acres of land just 14 miles east of Stevens Point. Camp has been part of Portage County for over 65 years under several different names. The Y began leasing the property in the late 1990s. Our camp, now under the name Y Camp Glacier Hollow, will continue to focus its effort on teaching environmentally-themed programs and giving children a unique outdoor camp experience.
In 1996, the YMCA completed a strategic plan that focused on the YMCA’s desire to become more of a family center in Portage County. This plan led to the need for a major facility expansion. A feasibility study was conducted in 1996 for the purpose of conducting a capital development campaign. The board approved the plan for capital expansion and kicked off a major campaign. “Vision for the Future” in 1997. The main emphasis of the expansion would be to create an adventure type pool, a second gymnasium, and expanded fitness areas. Mike Copps, Jerry O’Brien and Tina Peters co-chaired the campaign efforts. Over $3.1 million dollars were raised.
In 2000, the YMCA took a large step in unifying its membership by eliminating the two-tiered membership system. No longer would the Stevens Point YMCA have a separate membership for those with the financial resources to afford it. Now anyone, including those families that received financial assistance, would have full access to the facility. In conjunction with this membership change, the fitness center went under a major renovation with the addition of new lighting, flooring, and equipment.
Where do we go from here
The people of Stevens Point can be proud of the work they have done to build this association of people in their community. We have established a tradition of quality in adapting to the changing needs of Portage County residents.
Everything we do is designed to nurture the potential of children and teens (Youth Development), improve health and well-being (Healthy Living) and motivate people to support their neighbors and the larger community (Social Responsibility).
In 2015, our membership reached 10,372 individuals. Another 2,252 youth and adults participated in the Y program. Each time, a staff or volunteer leader was there to teach our four core values of caring, honesty, respect, and responsibility. It is these values that define the Y and will help us succeed in the future.
Stevens Point Area YMCA Board Chairs
1967-1971 Chan Copps
1971-1972 Gerald O'Brien
1972-1973 John Roberts
1973-1974 Raymond Nass
1974-1975 John McComb
1975-1976 James Cooper
1976-1977 Jay Warner
1977-1978 David Coker
1978-1980 Edie Kraus
1980-1981 Dr. George May
1981-1983 Timothy Copps
1983-1985 Donald Colby
1985-1987 Bob Taylor
1987-1989 Dr. George May
1989-1992 Kristina Peters
1992-1994 Jim Harmon
1994-1996 Jeff Martin
1996-1998 Andy Risberg
1998-2000 Thomas Stafford
2000-2002 Don Bachleitner
2002-2004 Sue Koehl
2004-2006 Nadine Davy
2006-2008 Joe Kinsella
2008-2010 Doug Chickering
2010-2012 Dale Warner
2012-2014 Erik Carlson
2014-2016 Fritz Schierl
2016-2018 Jeff Hohn
2018-2020 Brian Formella
2020-2022 Scott Glinski
2022-2023 Sue Koehl