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A community asset
YMCA offers programs for all ages
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The Greater Palm Harbor Branch YMCA has a heated family recreation pool, water slide and a heated eight-lane competition pool.
The Greater Palm Harbor Branch YMCA preschool soccer program is conducted on the outdoor playground.
The leadership team at the Greater Palm Harbor Branch YMCA consists of, from left, Kevin Sugar, maintenance director, Randy Nilsson, executive director, Curtis Campogni, program director and James Macchiarola, operations director.
PALM HARBOR – Sharon Scervo is a cancer survivor. After surgery and rehabilitation, Scervo joined the LIVESTRONG program at the Greater Palm Harbor Branch YMCA.

LIVESTRONG is a 12-week, small group program designed for adult cancer survivors and caregivers. The program supports cancer survivors during the transitional period between completing their treatment and the shift to returning to normal life. It is one of many programs offered at the Y.

No matter what their age, they love it,” Scervo said. “It’s designed to help build back some strength, physically and mentally.”

Scervo, who is petite and spry with curly two-tone hair, enjoys helping young people and students. She became a YMCA volunteer after graduating from the LIVESTRONG program in 2010. Scervo now assists members in the Y’s gym and work out facility.

The YMCA is located north of Nebraska Avenue at 1600 16th St. It is adjacent to Palm Harbor University High School. The Y has about 5,800 members and 30 percent receive financial assistance to pay for program services and fees.

“We have guidelines for income and how many people are in a family. We work with each person to come up with a price they can afford,” said Randy Nilsson, executive director. “Like a church or any other charity, we ask contributors to help us to help their neighbors.”

For active older adults, group exercise classes are held at the Y in the multipurpose room five days a week. In February, nearly 100 SilverSneaker members joined the Y through their healthcare plan. SilverSneakers is a fitness program that encourages physical activity, wellness, and social networking for older adults.

The original 14,000-square-foot YMCA building, which was built in 2004, underwent expansion in 2008. It now houses a 24,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility. Large floor to ceiling windows allow light to filter through an open lobby and north-wing exercise room. An adjacent storage area keeps the suspended wooden floor room clutter free.

“The beautiful thing about the exercise room is everything – to the lighting, the space, and the shades that go up or down at the flip of a switch,” Nilsson said. “We do everything from cycling, body pump and core work.”

The lobby is designed as a meeting place, offering warm and friendly service, much like a Starbucks. Members check in at the small, non-obtrusive welcome station. They can chat with a volunteer at bank-like desks or sit and relax in lobby seating, where free coffee is available.

As a service to parents, the Y transports Palm Harbor and Carwise Middle School students back and forth to its facility, where before and after school programs keep children busy until parents can pick them up in the evening.

Parents, who take early morning or late evening exercise classes, can check their children into the Y’s kid zone, which is a large bright playroom complete with a nursery for ages six weeks or older. Toddlers can play in the tree house, jungle gym or read in the seated section.

Outside, the Y boasts two large swimming pools – a heated eight-lane competition pool and a heated family recreation pool. The competition pool serves double duty for the Y’s year-round swimming program and for the Palm Harbor University High swim team.

Lisa Bitting, head swim coach for both programs, has led the boys high school team to championships twice since 2006 in the Florida High School Athletic Association finals.

The mini-water park and family pool starts at a zero-depth entry for small children and levels out at 4 feet. Spray jets on each side of the pool create bubbles while a water slide and bucket fountain keep children entertained. Lifeguard stations are manned and all swimmers are banded depending on skill level.

“Drowning prevention is of utmost importance to us,” Nilsson said.

During the summer, themed parties are held at the family pool and in a private room for birthdays and special events. The parties are planned and organized by an event coordinator and are held on Saturdays and Sundays from 3 to 5 p.m.

The Y sponsors monthly events including a bunny brunch on March 23 to pool parties in May through August. The Y will host Match 100, a Big Brothers Big Sisters event March 16.

“We are very open to community events utilizing the beauty we have here to benefit other organizations and the community,” Nilsson said.

The North Pinellas Branch YMCA in East Lake also offers the LIVESTRONG program. Members who join either the Greater Palm Harbor Branch or North Pinellas Branch can visit any Y in the Tampa Bay area. The Greater Palm Harbor Branch YMCA features outdoor basketball courts while the North Pinellas Branch YMCA features six lighted tennis courts.

YMCA of the Suncoast association membership rates vary depending on household size. The monthly rate for one adult, age 27-64 is $46 plus a $75 activation fee. The monthly rate for two adults plus one or more dependent children is $75 plus a $100 activation fee. The monthly rate for two senior adults age 65 or older is $60 plus a $100 activation fee. Call 727-787-9622 for more information.

The Palm Harbor YMCA Branch hours of operation are Monday to Thursday, 5 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday, 5 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturday, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
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