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Fundraising for rural Community Wellness Center enters new phase

A rendering of what the new Community Wellness Center in Elmwood could look like.
A rendering of what the new Community Wellness Center in Elmwood could look like.

A fundraising campaign for a new community wellness center serving rural Peoria, Fulton, and Knox counties is well underway. Leaders believe it could be a game-changer for the region.

The Greater Peoria Family YMCA, Graham Health System, and Elmwood Community Foundation are spearheading the efforts to build the 33,000 square foot building in Elmwood.

Plans call for a pool, track, workout equipment, and a community room, among other things. Graham Medical Group will also offer physical therapy and cardiac rehab out of the building.

Andy Thornton is president and CEO of the Greater Peoria Family YMCA. He said the facility will serve not only Elmwood, but also communities like Farmington, Williamsfield, Brimfield, Hanna City, and Maquon.

"The 20,000 people or so that live in that region will all have access to this facility and allow us to really serve the needs of all of those residents. We like to say it in the Y-world: from cradle to grave, we can provide programs and services that will meet people's needs," he said.

Dick Taylor of the Elmwood Community Foundation says an economic impact study suggests the community wellness center will have a "staggering" impact.

"It'll be over $60 million of economic impact generated just by the activities that take place at this facility. And that's for all the communities included. That's in that 20 minute drive time of Elmwood," Taylor said.

Thornton said that study also supports the long-term case for the center.

"We've taken all that data, turned it into an operating budget, and we know that we'll be sustainable from year one, moving forward without any type of subsidy. And that's really important for people to know that we've done the homework. We know it's going to work," he said. "We just have to get it built, and we're going to build it through traditional philanthropy."

Micki McCarthy of the Elmwood Community Foundation said they've raised about 60% towards their $12.4 million goal. The project received a $3.75 million USDA grant, and the Doug and Diane Oberhelman Foundation is matching up to a million dollars worth of donations. The Gilmore Foundation is also contributing $500,000, including up to $250,000 in donation matches from Caterpillar employees and retirees.

Donations don't always come in a monetary form. McCarthy said grain gifts are one popular option in their agricultural region. Other options include IRA rollovers and stock gifts.

A groundbreaking is planned for next spring if the fundraising goal is met.

Tim is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.