Over 50 years ago, four teenage boys, living in rural Gaston County, formed a close friendship – one that found them together on the football field and, here, jumping off this tower at Robinwood Lake. Little did they know, that many years later, they would not only remain friends but, now as leaders in Gaston County, would spearhead one of the largest fundraising efforts in the history of the YMCA.
Their goal? To give the community of Gaston County a YMCA they could be proud of – a place of community and a place that would draw new industry, new businesses and new jobs.
The area was already being served by an existing Central Y. And while it provided a place of security, of hope and of refuge, its 1960s structure was slowly failing and so was its membership.
After a $24 million fundraising campaign and much work by our community team, the new Warlick Family YMCA opened its doors to the community last December.
Located at Robinwood Lake, the same lake where the team of four leaders who spearheaded this project spent much of their childhood, this Y is doing EXACTLY what was expected – serving as a meeting place and a place of fellowship for the entire community. At its center is the “hearth”, a fireplace surrounded by a large communal area. Here, in the mornings, you’re likely to find a group of retired men who have deemed themselves the “Y’s Guys” solving the world’s problems over a cup of coffee.
Extending from the hearth are two pools, popular among members, and a vibrant, exploratory childcare center that has resulted in child watch increasing from 300 to 3,000 children per month. There’s also a gymnasium, the favorite place of 17- year-old Nathan. While challenged with autism, Nathan is known for making sure others follow the policy of no food or drinks in the gym and is occasionally seen with his arms full of trash, cleaning up after those who disobey the rule. Also, located just off the hearth is a youth meeting room that has unexpectedly become THE place for Saturday birthday celebrations.
Upstairs is the weight-room and track, made even more popular with the scenery of the lake. It’s also where parents can also catch a glimpse of the children who have climbed the glass enclosed, play structure that’s part of the childcare center.
Outdoors, the community has found multiple uses for the open-air chapel – using it as the backdrop for high school graduation pictures, yoga classes and weddings. And then there’s the lake. Beyond its natural beauty, it’s where members enjoy the peacefulness of canoeing and fishing while enjoying the surrounding 100+ acres that contains trails, campsites and quaint gathering spots.
To date, this new Y has tripled the membership of the old Central Y, it has become a community hub for everyone, serving a diverse demographic both in age and in socio-economic outlook. And, according to Michelle Miller, the facility’s director, it has become a symbol of progress and of hope in Gaston County.