Advocates in the “Y” movement are asking state officials to extend a program that’s financing improvements to YMCA facilities in some Iowa cities. There are currently 26 YMCA organizations in Iowa, operating buildings at 54 different sites.

“In Iowa communities, YMCA facilities serve many important roles. We are the the community center, the day care, the camp, the health care facility, the youth development center and, yes, a fitness facility,” says Craig  Hanken, executive director of the Iowa Alliance of YMCAs. “Iowa YMCAs have been well-loved and well-used and many are in need of support to maintain their aging facilities.”

In 2015, the Rural YMCA Facility Improvement program was launched. Lawmakers set aside half a million dollars in state tax money for the program. The “Y” getting the money comes up with at least half as much in matching funds.

“These funds were designated to assist YMCAs in the renovation or the maintainence of facilities in Iowa’s small communities, so populations of 28,000 or fewer folks,” Hanken says. “This allocation of $500,000, plus $250,000 of match money from YMCAs across the state, brings the total investment in Iowa YMCA facilities to three-quarters-of-a-million dollars.”

Another $600,000 was handed out a few weeks ago.

“Rural YMCA Facility Improvement Grants have assisted and continue to assist YMCAs in meeting critical community needs by creating a safe environment with updated boilers, leak-free roofs, parking access, renovated gyms, classrooms and more and recently we’ve begun to address energy efficiency improvements, just to name a few of the projects that are underway.”

Hanken says the state grants have made a “small, but welcome dent” in necessary facility improvements, but he says there’s another $30 million worth of projects yet to go. Hanken spoke at last week’s budget hearing in the governor’s office. He asked Governor Branstad to include more money for the YMCAs in the state budget plan Branstad will present lawmakers next month.

The very first “Young Men’s Christian Association” was formed in London in 1844. There have been YMCAs in Iowa for more than a century.