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YMCA of Rock River Valley to Expand, Building Puri Family YMCA

First Midwest Group Founder and CEO, Sunil Puri, donated $2.25 million to the YMCA of Rock River Valley to expand their facilities to the east side of Rockford. This location will provide opportunities for education, health, and fitness to the South East side of Rockford.

(RRStar, Lindsey Holden, Oct 27, 2015)- The YMCA of Rock River Valley is expanding to include a 15,500-square-foot branch on the far southeast side of the city.


The organization announced Tuesday it will add a third location, to be named the Puri Family YMCA, at 1475 S. Perryville Road, near the intersection of Perryville and Newburg roads. The facility will be built using a $2.25 million donation by Sunil Puri, president of First Midwest Group, and his business partner Dan Arnold.


The YMCA currently operates two other branches: a downtown Rockford facility, 200 Y Blvd., and a Northeast location in Loves Park, 8451 Orth Road.


The organization in the next month will embark on a $750,000 capital campaign in the east-side area to raise the additional funds needed to renovate the space, which is currently an office building. CEO Mike Brown said he hopes to open the new branch, which could serve 600 to 1,600 area families, sometime during the next six to eight months, depending on the amount of time it takes the organization to raise the extra money.


The new location will have typical amenities, such as a weight room, but will be smaller than the downtown YMCA, which has about 100,000 square feet of space, and the Northeast branch, which has 55,000 square feet, Brown said. He plans to hold community input sessions in coming months to determine what kind of programming and features residents want.


“When you take the big pool and the big gym away, then you start getting into the healthy lifestyles, youth development, child care activities,” Brown said. “We’ll have guitar lessons here, art classes here, cooking classes here, family programming, small athletics and sports for indoors, aerobics, lifestyles — all kinds of opportunities.”


Brown would like to see the YMCA use this smaller “micro-YMCA” model to spread facilities around the region.


“I would like to launch five of these in this community,” Brown said. “We need to be in the village of Winnebago, Machesney Park, Roscoe, west side of Rockford. The way to do it is to have existing facilities modified into YMCAs.”


For Puri, donating to the YMCA gives him a chance to help locate a facility in the east-side area where First Midwest Group has built nearly all of its commercial developments.


“We’ve done a lot of the retail in this area,” Puri said. “This is kind of a way to give back to those folks.”


Although the YMCA’s downtown branch is located closer to the west side of the city, residents in some of Rockford’s poorest neighborhoods still don’t have a fitness facility within walking distance. Brown said locating the new branch on the east side is the result of partnerships and opportunities that became available.


“Our regional aspect is to hit every area of Rockford, but it comes down to collaborations and partnerships,” Brown said. “If somebody on the west side said, ‘Hey, Mike, I have a 15,000-square-foot facility that I’d like to hand over to the YMCA so you can make your dreams come alive,’ then I’d be over there.”


Brown said there are needy families living near the new branch, as well. He said the YMCA is involved in Northwest Community Center and is continuing to explore ways to invest in the west side. Leadership and partners are needed, however. Brown hopes teaming up with Puri can serve as a “pilot” for future efforts.


“We’re not choosing one region or area over another,” Brown said. “We’re choosing all areas — this is just the first one that has been donated to us.”

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