The woes of the Benjamin Barnes YMCA are currently being addressed, thanks to a number of individuals who have been supporters, cheerleaders, and alarm sounders for the organization. In upcoming weeks, Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox is set to present these people with awards for their activism.

Once a major center of the West Tuscaloosa community, the Benjamin Barnes YMCA fell victim to poor deals and lack of organizational support, which left it practically in peril. Though the doors remained open for services to the community, the condition of the facility lagged far behind other newer establishments in the city, including the central YMCA downtown.

Over the summer, the issues surrounding the Barnes YMCA were brought to public attention, and plans to rectify the situations were put into action, thanks to those who understand not only the historical significance of the Barnes Y but also the needs of the community which surrounds it. So, the management and underlying structural supporters of the Y would like to honor these individuals, and Mayor Maddox will do the honors during the kickoff for the Youth First Campaign at Elizabeth Baptist Church on January 17, 2021.

Honorees:

Lifetime of Service- Mason Bonner

Anyone who has come into contact with Mr. Bonner has heard of the wonderful things going on at the Barnes YMCA, and this didn't just begin.  Mr. Bonner has been a supporter of the Barnes YMCA for numerous decades.  His involvement has been a major contribution to youth athletics and community involvement.

He played a crucial role in bringing the Ollie Washington Building and Maintenance Program to the YMCA.  This program taught general construction, painting, plumbing, and other skills to the public, where students were afforded the opportunity to be certified upon completion.

Mr. Bonner was the President of the Y Men's Club, a Lifetime Member of Benjamin Barnes YMCA, a former Sports Director for Barnes, and former member of the Barnes Advisory Council. He has spent  twenty plus years serving the Benjamin Barnes YMCA.

In the last two years, he has organized and run basketball and baseball leagues for the YMCA. In 2019, he served nearly 180 kids for FREE. If there's work to be done at the YMCA, Mason Bonner can be found negotiating deals and setting up plans to get it done.

Trailblazer Awardees: Paul Rollins, Jr. and Rodney Pelt

Last summer, the Barnes YMCA partnered with the Tuscaloosa City Schools to offer virtual learning to students and families in Tuscaloosa amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The schools provided meals. However, the meals were distributed once a week and needed to be refrigerated until needed. The Barnes YMCA did not have a refrigerator to store the food. Rollins and Pelt used their own funds or organized efforts for the community to make sure all 40 kids and staff were fed a hot meal daily for two months.

Recognition of Volunteer Service

The summer of 2020, it was leaked to the public that the air conditioning at the Barnes  the gym was not functional and that there was no hot water. A group of concerned citizens petitioned the YMCA Board of Directors as to why Barnes was not being maintained in the same matter as Downtown Y. There was a town hall meeting on Facebook consisting of members of the board, City of Tuscaloosa, and Stillman College.
The community paid for the AC to be fixed, and a board member paid for the water issue. Organizers started a petition that garnered over 4,000 signatures, calling for a new Barnes to be built at Stillman and for a new Board if the Barnes YMCA was not being properly managed. Since that time, four new Board members have been installed, eight new Council members are in place, the Y Men’s Club has new members, $122,000 in improvements have been made at Barnes, and the City is requiring the YMCA to financially contribute additional funds to Barnes Branch for programming as part of the potential City/YMCA partnership.
The management, staff, Board and Council members believe the efforts of these individuals played a huge role in the changes that have occurred.
Kerri Ash
Pastor Freddie Washington
Ashley Wheat
Danielle Eaton
Shae Byrd
Raytonya Hughes
Bishop L. Spenser Smith
Rodney Pelt
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7 Things That Need Fixing in Tuscaloosa

7 Things That Need Fixing in Tuscaloosa