It's been over two years since your city council made the difficult decision to close down the facility most of Neosho knew as “The Rec Center.”

It's been over two years since your city council made the difficult decision to close down the facility most of Neosho knew as "The Rec Center." While it was a difficult decision at the time, it was one that was made based solely on necessity.

Years of under-funded maintenance put the facility in disrepair. The city simply had no money to do with the building what needed to be done to make it what it once was. It was never going to recover.

Recently, some local citizens have asked about the city's plan to rebuild such a facility and once again give the youth of Neosho something to do and somewhere to go. Implying the city is now "flush" with money, some are even insisting that Neosho needs to build such a facility so our local schools will have a chance to succeed in sports like basketball and the like.

Let me first challenge any implications that the city is now "flush" with money. No doubt our cuts and fiscal efforts have helped restore reserves. And cash balances are certainly much better off than they were two years ago. But we are far from being in a position to borrow millions of dollars to build an updated version of the Rec Center we all once knew and loved.

But I'll go further to ask a question — "Are their other ways to fill that need without asking the government to do it?" I think so. And for Neosho it relies on an existing multi-million dollar facility located out by Crowder College called the YMCA.

I'll start by saying that our local Y is a great place. Whether it's weights, cardio, swimming, racquetball, basketball, or aerobics (to name a few), our local Y has it! While some may say it's not as conveniently located as the Rec Center may have been, it's certainly much more capable of delivering a wide variety of activities than our former Rec ever thought of doing.

Some are quick to point out that the YMCA requires membership and that the services of the Y don't come "free." Well, that's true…but! For those that have the financial ability to pay, it's expected that you do so. Having such a fine facility, staffing it, and maintaining its infrastructure costs money. As with life – nothing is free. But for those who may need some help, the Y takes a very honorable and respectable position: As stated on their website, "The Neosho Freeman Family YMCA offers financial assistance to those who qualify. No one is ever turned away from a YMCA membership, program or service due to inability to pay."

One way those fees are covered is through an annual fundraiser called the Strong Kids Campaign. I recently had the privilege of learning more about the campaign from Tom Sutton, YMCA board chair. After hearing about the program (and already knowing what a great Y we had), I gave my commitment to become one of many who help to support the program financially every year. It's yet another way I can help make a difference in my hometown.

Over the next few weeks, be watching for news articles about the 2013 Strong Kids Campaign. It's just around the corner. And to Tom Sutton and the others who help to make our local Y a great place, I say "thanks" for what you do. So much of what we have in our town doesn't happen by accident. And the work of those at the local Y to make it a place where all are welcome and where our youth can enjoy a variety of activities is yet one more example of why I'm proud to call Neosho "home."
To those that want a place for our youth to go, please take a moment to consider the Y. For those that want to help a great community-wide effort that has touched thousands of lives in our community, please take a moment to consider helping the YMCA Strong Kids Campaign. It's a great place. It's a great program. And it's already available to those that wish to use it – right here in Neosho!

Until next time, stay the course, keep the faith, and may God bless Neosho!

Richard Davidson is mayor of Neosho.