After 15 years, the YMCA in Chester can lay claim to its own facility. On Nov. 23, 1996, the charter was received to establish a YMCA in Chester County, said Bessie Vastis, the local YMCA’s founder and board chair. “The excitement and support from our citizens was tremendous,” she said. “Our biggest challenge was to find a location for the YMCA.”
A school bond referendum was being held at that time to build a new school, Vastis said. If Chester County residents voted in favor of the referendum, the old Chester Senior High School on Columbia Street would become vacant. This building was where Vastis had attended high school. “We were lucky,” she said. “The local school bond referendum passed.” Vastis and others sprang into action. They contacted then Superintendent Quincy Smith, went before the board of trustees and asked to use the old high school for a YMCA.
“The school board of trustees voted unanimous to support our efforts to establish a YMCA in Chester,” Vastis said. “They promised us, if we were successful with our fundraising, they would lease to the YMCA half of the school building including the gym and they would use the other half for Adult Education.”
The board of trustees’ promise also included a lease agreement for the remainder of the building if the Adult Education program moved to another location, Vastis said. “Fifteen years later, the school district decided to move to another location,” she said. “We were fortunate to be able to lease the other half of the building. Now we will be able to continue to grow and add more programs for our citizens.” In addition, the Chester County YMCA will have the opportunity to form more partnerships with the schools, the city and county recreation, Chester Regional Medical Center and many other community partnerships, Vastis said. She extended sincerest appreciation to Interim Superintendent John Taylor, Associate Superintendent Blair Turner and the Chester County Board of School Trustees for their “outstanding support.” “
Thank you for helping us improve the quality of life for our citizens,” Vastis said. Chester County YMCA CEO Scott Brown also expressed his appreciation for total acquisition of the property. “I think this is a good opportunity for the Chester County Y to be able to reach out to the community and provide more programs for Chester County residents,” he said.