Pastor set to head parish’s YMCA effort

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 23, 2000

FERRIDAY, La. – Gary Howington, pastor of First United Pentecostal Church in Ferriday, has agreed to spearhead efforts to locate a YMCA in the Concordia Parish town.

&uot;A YMCA could have all sorts of recreational activities but could also host tutoring, GED (tutoring) and computer skills classes and could teach youth things like how to apply for a job or how to write a resume. We could have arts and crafts and family-oriented programs,&uot; Howington said. &uot;We’re a very community-oriented church, and we believe this will be good for the youth in our area and for the whole community.&uot;

Howington, who first became involved with the program when he attended a Sept. 20 public meeting with town and YMCA officials, sees his role as that of public relations director, getting citizens so excited about the project that they’ll spend their time and money to help make it happen. &uot;After all, the Y will only come into a community if they see there will be enough grassroots involvement from the public,&uot; he said.

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One way people can get involved is by helping fund the project, he added. The Ferriday Town Council is now reviewing its budget to see whether it can contribute $25,000 a year toward costs of operating the YMCA branch. And Recreation District No. 1 is considering putting up some of the $73,000 a year it gets from a 3-mill tax passed by voters if the District Attorney’s Office gives its approval to that use of funds.

But since YMCA officials estimate it takes $50,000 to $75,000 a year for three years to make a branch financially self-sufficient, the project will also need donations from churches, non-profit organizations and the public at large, Howington pointed out. Such funds could even be used to match grants that are available to help fund programs such as those the YMCA might provide.

And community volunteers will be needed to host such programs, especially since staffing will be limited at first. &uot;We will have an executive director at first, and then we could expand personnel as we grow,&uot; he said.

The next step is to form a local YMCA Board of Directors to help guide the project, first by compiling a list of programs it would like to see the branch provide.

&uot;Other than that, I’m just trying to get as many people as possible to see the benefit of having a YMCA in this community,&uot; Howington said.

The branch would be located in the former Ferriday Kindergarten Center building the town is leasing from the Concordia Parish School Board.