The YMCA building on West Lake Houston Parkway may be empty and primed for rebuilding right now, but the heart and soul of the “Y” is alive and well.
“We lost our entire building,” said Chris Butsch, Lake Houston Family YMCA’s new community executive director. “Without the facility, we had to transfer staff to other facilities because there just wasn’t enough funding to keep them in place.”
As a result, much of the perception of what the Y did is gone. A reduction in staff meant that the Y lost relationships that were built as those staff members interacted with the Lake Houston community, and the Y also lost the workforce that allowed it to serve a larger community base.
It was a hectic first four months when Butsch joined the Lake Houston Y team a few months ago as community executive director. He found himself spearheading the annual fund drive and two major community events, Bridge Fest and Dancing for a Cause.
Fortunately, the Tomball native is steeped in the YMCA culture.
“My first position was working as a camp counselor,” Butsch said. “Working out of need. I was a confused 18-year-old struggling through college. That first summer out of school I had to support myself; happened upon the YMCA and fell in love with it.”
Butsch credits the YMCA with straightening him out and helping him find a focus and passion in life.
“There were some very influential people who helped mentor me,” he said. “I hope I can help young teens in the same way.”
Butsch has served as a teen and family director, youth sports director, and senior membership director at various Greater Houston Ys. He was associate executive director at the McWilliams Y and the Trotter Y and executive director at the Duncan Y before moving to Lake Houston, where he will put his bachelor’s degrees in business and special education and his mentoring skills to good use.
Community connections are vital to Lake Houston’s new community executive director. Despite the loss of the building, Butsch continues to find ways to be a good community neighbor.
“We recently partnered with Humble ISD and their foundation to build the Insperity Adaptive Sports Complex,” Butsch said. “We’re working with Humble Area Assistance Ministries to provide a couple weeks of camp to assist their operation and families. Family Promise families receive afterschool care to help with the cost of daycare and to help parents with children seek employment. Frankly, there are so many more opportunities for the YMCA to partner with other community organizations.”
The Lake Houston Y continues to serve 29 after-school sites in Humble ISD, the Insperity Adaptive Sports Program on West Lake Houston Parkway in The Groves is open, and the unique outdoor Aire Fitness Small Group training programs are underway. The Y also offers active older adult activities and trips, group exercises, and youth sports.
While Hurricane Harvey created challenges, it also created an opportunity for the Lake Houston Y to pause and re-evaluate the building and how it is used.
After the storm, Lake Houston members were surveyed to see how the Y could better serve them. Plans for improvement were developed and permits obtained.
“Because we’re a community organization, a 501(c)3 charity, we’re hoping to recoup from FEMA some of the funds we lost,” Butsch said. “We take all funds donated and filter 100 percent back into our community.”
The Y has developed a plan to renovate and expand the facility so they can serve Lake Houston more effectively for the next 30 years.
“We’ve taken strategic steps to ensure our community presence as well as continuing our annual major events such as Bridge Fest and Dancing for a Cause,” said Busch. “It is important for us to be visible and active in our community.”
The new building will give the Lake Houston Y new opportunities in several ways.
“I am most excited for our plan to add a more boutique style of fitness to connect and engage a different clientele than we have had in the past, while still being able to provide services for our traditional members,” Butsch said.
Phase one is set to be completed in June. This will allow the Lake Houston Y to open their wellness center, locker rooms, pool and group exercise studio.
Phase two will be completed at the end of 2018, allowing the Y to open multiple studios, a new lobby, new child watch center, new children adventure center, teen/intergenerational room, community kitchen, gym, a second-floor wellness center, and multiple multi-purpose rooms.
“Without staff support, it’s been tough,” Butsch said. “My greatest challenge has been to move the Lake Houston Y through our annual campaign, Bridge Fest and Dancing for a Cause, during the first four months that I joined the team.”
Fortunately for Butsch and the Lake Houston community, several volunteers and part-time staff stepped up to meet the challenge.
“Our community volunteers and our staff were able to show that the Y is still strong,” Butsch said, “and we’ll come back better than ever.”
To learn more about the rebuilding and renovation of the Lake Houston YMCA or to sign up for one of their programs, visit ymcahouston.org/locations/lake-houston-family-ymca.