Century-old Voni Grimes Gym 'regifted' to York City community

Rebecca Klar
York Dispatch

Local children and teens were already using the renovated basketball court in the Voni Grimes Gym on Tuesday, Oct. 30, as officials gathered for a grand opening of the project. 

It was not so much a grand opening as it was a regifting, said recreation program specialist Diaz Woodard. 

"It's been here for 102 years, I thought the idea of us doing a ribbon cutting as a grand opening of something that already existed didn't make sense," Woodard said. "We pretty much redid it and gave it back to the community ... it's nothing new. The Grimes has been here for years and been servicing our community for years." 

Over the course of the two-year project, the gym has been refurbished, he said. Among renovations are new floors, fresh coats of paint on the walls and updated bathrooms. 

The children's gym located at 125 E. College Ave. is named in honor of Voni Grimes, a  York advocate and educator who died in January at 95. 

The renovated space is exactly what its namesake would have wanted for the community, said Grimes' cousin Casey "Kat" Rossum, who affectionately referred to Grimes as "Uncle Bus." 

"He was born in the gym and lived in the gym. He would have loved to see it remodeled," she said, adding that he did see it because he was there in spirit. 

Woodard also grew up in York and used the gym regularly, he said. 

While he didn't know Grimes personally because of a significant age difference, he grew up hearing Grimes' name and learning about Grimes' legacy in the community. 

"It's an honor to follow in his footsteps," Woodward said. 

This isn't the end of the road for renovations on the space that "lies in the heart of the neighborhood," said YWCA CEO Jean Treuthard. 

Raheem McCrary, left, and Isaiah Deshields play ball during an open gym session at the revitalized Voni Grimes Gym in York City after a ribbon cutting ceremony there Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2018. The event marked the completion of a multi-year project at the community gym. Bill Kalina photo

These projects wouldn't happen without the help of the corporations writing the checks, she said.

The city, YWCA York and Royal Square Development partnered with Glatfelter Insurance Group, M&T Bank, Northwest Bank, PeoplesBank and the York Water Co. for the renovation. 

The five local businesses each pledged $50,000 a year in a Pennsylvania tax credit program administered by YWCA York for the renovations. 

York City Mayor Michael Helfrich said the city is applying for a fifth year of funding to work on the exterior of the building and improve the park and the surrounding outdoor land.

"(We're) looking to put more assets into this neighborhood and make sure our kids and our families are getting the space they need to enjoy each other's company and also to feel safe in the neighborhood," he said. 

During the 2018 Open Gym season, the facility is open from 4 to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday for children age 16 and younger. Other activities are held there also, including martial arts classes.