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Woodbury YMCA celebrates 20th anniversary this weekend

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The YMCA of Woodbury means different things to different people. 

For some, it’s a place to get in shape, for others it’s a chance to spend time together with friends and families. 

No matter the reason for going, most people can agree that the Woodbury YMCA has become an important part of the community. 

“It’s of course a fitness center, but it’s also more than that,” said Heidi Bardwell, executive director of the Woodbury YMCA. “It’s become a community hub for all sorts of people.” 

The YMCA of Woodbury will be celebrating its 20th anniversary this weekend at the facility, located at 2175 Radio Drive. 

Starting the Y 

It was all the way back in 1987 when the YMCA of Greater St. Paul, now the YMCA of Twin Cities, first began looking at the possibility of opening a facility in Woodbury. 

“I’ve always believed in the spirit and the mission of the Y,” said Merilee Inman, one of the first instructors with the YMCA of Woodbury, “and the fact that the Y was coming to our community was a given.” 

It was still many years before the Woodbury YMCA, formerly the Southeast Area YMCA, had a physical home though since from 1987-1995 fitness classes were being taught at churches and schools. 

“It was more community programs,” Bardwell said. “As those things grew we were able to continue.” 

With the help of donors and partnerships the Woodbury YMCA was able to open an actual facility, at its current location, in 1995. 

“We grew programs in the community first and then as those needs became greater then we needed a building,” Bardwell said. “We only had the first floor at first.” 

The Woodbury YMCA had about 300 memberships, including both individuals and families, when it opened its doors in 1995. Today, the Woodbury YMCA has roughly 3,000  memberships.

Maplewood resident Geri Sartor was one of the Woodbury YMCA’s first members having started taking classes at a church and then eventually at the facility. 

“What the Y is to me is my home away from home,” she said. “It’s really just about the friendships.” 

The Woodbury YMCA continued to grow in popularity, which eventually resulted in a full remodel and expansion in 2006. 

“The spaces that we have now are easy for us to transform if our community needs something different,” Bardwell said. “We have the ability to change with what the community wants.” 

Why the Y? 

Inman, a West St. Paul resident who has been teaching classes at the Woodbury YMCA since before there was a building, believes that it’s the people who call YMCA home that give it its unique feeling. 

“We’re real instructors for real people,” she said. “We’re not models, we’re real people. 

“You can come to the Y and not only see yourself in your instructors but in the other people that are here – we’re a cross section of the community.” 

The Woodbury YMCA has many options for its members including machines, weights, classes, preschool, swimming, a gathering space for seniors and teens and so much more. 

“My goal is to show that exercise can be fun,” Inman said. 

At this weekend’s anniversary celebration the Woodbury YMCA will not only be holding a reception with its members on Friday but it will also be holding an open house on Saturday complete with a bounce house, a scavenger hunt, open swimming, log rolling in the pool, crafts and group and family exercise classes. 

“I am blessed to love what I do and to be part of an organization that taps into our spirits,” Inman said. 

Now that the Woodbury YMCA has reached its 20-year milestone, Bardwell said it’s time to start thinking about its future. 

While the Woodbury YMCA will continue to offer quality programming at its facility, the next phase of the Woodbury YMCA will be to take it out to the community. 

“We’re pretty full here so it’s time to think a little bit differently,” Bardwell said. “How does it look outside our four walls? 

“We do need to think more about bringing the Y out.” 

Even though Woodbury is home to other fitness options, Bardwell said she hopes the Woodbury community continues to choose the Woodbury YMCA. 

“It’s just a little bit different type of feeling here,” Bardwell said. “It’s not all about running the next marathon or losing weight, it’s also about community.” 

 

The Woodbury YMCA 20th anniversary celebration will take place from 1-4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 7. Activities will include a bounce house, a scavenger hunt, open swimming, log rolling in the pool, crafts and group exercise classes. A family exercise class will be held from 2-2:45 p.m. The celebration is open to all, but a photo ID is required. 

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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