April 16, 2018 – Developments for the creation of a new YMCA and Boys & Girls Club project in downtown Wisconsin Rapids continues to come together. The most recent push is happening thanks to a $1 million gift from the Bell Family Charitable Foundation. Steve and Paula Bell, along with their family, see the project as a unique opportunity to invest in the community, with the benefits to children and families being a primary focus. The new facility will provide improved resources, education and wellness while being a leader in creating healthier living for the greater south Wood County area. The Bell’s have made a portion of their gift on behalf of WoodTrust Bank to recognize WoodTrust’s longstanding interest in and contribution to, the south Wood County area. WoodTrust was founded in 1891 and has been a part of the Wisconsin Rapids community ever since, taking a keen interest in a wide range of non-profit organizations through monetary support and employee involvement.
“This generous donation will indeed impact thousands of youth and families in our area for generations to come,” said Bret Salscheider, CEO of the South Wood County YMCA. “More importantly, it will enhance and improve this well-known gathering place, and make it possible for the Club and YMCA to provide more programs and activities to serve the greater community. We are grateful for the Bell Family’s commitment to our project and organizations.”
The Bell family has had a long, storied history with the YMCA starting with Chester (Chet) Bell. Chet was on the original board of directors helping to establish the organization nearly 60 years ago. It was a model of leadership passed down through the Bell family with his son Steve serving on the YMCA board as Chairman throughout the 1980s as well as co-chairing the “New Dimensions” capital campaign which raised over $500,000 in 1987 for improvements at the Port Edwards enter. Chad Kane, Chet’s grandson, also served on the YMCA board of directors helping to guide the organization through some of its most significant growth. Chad was co-chair of the “We are the Y” capital campaign that raised over $3,000,000 in 2003 for capital improvements at the Port Edwards Center and was instrumental in the YMCA’s capital expansion efforts for the Wisconsin Rapids Center in 2007. For most of the last 60 years, a Bell family member has served on the YMCA Board of Directors and this, more than anything, indicates the Bell’s commitment to the organization.
“Our family has grown up in the Y. My sisters and I learned how to swim there, we played basketball and were involved in gymnastics,” said Becky Kettleson, Executive Director of the Bell Family Charitable Foundation. “This new venture is going to combine two great organizations and we couldn’t be happier to be a part of this life changing project.”
The Bell family has been vested locally for generations in the south Wood County area. Seeing the YMCA and Boys & Girls Club continue has great interest to the Bell family as they have been strong supporters of both organizations.
“Some 60 years ago, John E Alexander and his family were the impetus behind the creation of our current YMCA. They are the main reason the YMCA is still in existence. Our relationship with, and respect for the Alexander’s and what they have done, makes our gift a no-brainer” said Steve Bell. “Both the YMCA and Boys & Girls Club are crucial community assets. They provide unique opportunities for our youth, such as health-related programming and leadership development, ultimately creating benefit for the wider community. We hope our gift will encourage others to join in giving, large or small, to help complete the YMCA and B&G Club fundraising campaign and build this amazing new community resource.”
The proposed facility will be a combination of renovated and newly constructed spaces encompassing approximately 93,000 square feet. It will house both organizations and provide synergies along with numerous opportunities with surrounding service providers. The project is on pace to begin construction late summer of 2018.
If you would like to learn more about the Building Futures Together Capital Campaign, individuals can visit the website at https://app.southwoodymca.org/. To make a contribution, please call 715.818.6017. Contributions can be made as a one time gift or by distributing payments over a period of up to five years.