When Hurricane Harvey tore through Kingwood in August of 2017, one of the many treasures lost was a community jewel – the Lake Houston YMCA.
– Lake Houston Y to reopen late spring –
With up to 9 feet of water filling the building, the only thing saved was a small stained glass window that had been located in the chapel. Everything else, including hundreds of thousands of dollars in exercise equipment, was lost.
Throughout Houston, more than 14 YMCAs were affected by the storm, but Kingwood and the Tomball location were destroyed. These two YMCAs have joined together to raise $2 million to cover the last of the funds needed for total restoration.
Insperity and a former Kingwood family, Joe and Cathy Cleary, have each promised $250,000 in a dollar-for-dollar match with any community donations. The goal for the Hurricane Harvey Rebuilding Campaign is $1 million for the Lake Houston Y.
“We have an ambitious goal,” said Christopher Butsch, executive director of the Y, who hopes to raise the money by the end of January.
“We are so grateful for this generous support from two long-time YMCA benefactors who are also strong and engaged leaders in the Lake Houston community,” he said. “Insperity recognizes the important role the Y has in our community. They believe in us. Joe Cleary has been incredibly supportive of the Y. His own children were participants in Y programs as they grew up in Kingwood. He is a wonderful partner to us.”
Butsch, 34, was the executive director of another Y when he was asked to take over in Kingwood. The young executive happily accepted the challenge of restoring the membership, directing the renovation, and staying positive in the 18 months since the hurricane.
“I started working at 15 as a summer teen counselor. After college, I was hired as a full-time employee and have been working for the Y ever since,” he said.
Butsch explained that while the facility was insured, there was a shortfall in funds needed for the project. Land for YMCAs is often donated, as was Kingwood’s, but are often on property deemed at risk; therefore, insurance limits the liability.
The Lake Houston YMCA has touched most families in the area from T-ball to soccer, teen dances and after-school care to summer camp, Bridgefest and the Dancing For Partners event. The Y also offers programs in Fall Creek, Generation Park and in East Montgomery County. Butsch hopes that families who have been touched in any way by the Y will consider donating. “Any dollar adds up,” he said.
Drivers along West Lake Houston Parkway may have noticed a dramatic difference in the building renovation – a second floor.
“We have added a second level with expansive windows. This is our version of a ‘flood mitigation program,’” Butsch quipped. “All our exercise equipment will be located there.”
Other changes include space for hot yoga, aerial yoga and new fitness concepts like CrossFit. That space has dark gray walls and garage doors separating the room, built to resemble a warehouse, as CrossFit is known to be housed often in warehouses.
Butsch said one of his goals is to study trends in the fitness field and to host an integrative culture at the Y. “We want to be proactive in our field and to offer programs to fit all needs,” he said.
The Lake Houston Family YMCA began serving its community informally in 1978 with a summer day camp offered to Kingwood-area residents. In early 1980, programs included youth sports, day camp and overnight family camp and was offered at a small storefront office that had been established in Kingwood. In 1984, a long-range plan for Y development was put in place and the first phase of the new Lake Houston Family YMCA was completed in 1992. Since then, the Y has expanded its reach, also serving children and families in the East Montgomery County and South Lake Houston communities.
Butsch said the plan is to raise $1 million by the end of January, host the popular Bridgefest in February, and by late spring, open the doors to the completed restoration.