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Bryan Bach and Nick Freebourn from the Exercise Store set up two new treadmills, two new ellipticals, two new stationary bikes, a home gym, steps and dumbbells in the newly remodeled exercise room at the YWCA.

Come on down! Beginning at 9 a.m. today, YWCA of Meadville is hosting an open house designed to mark nothing less than the first day of the rest of its life.

“New Beginnings” is the theme as the organization celebrates its new fitness room, new fitness equipment and new classes for preschoolers, seniors and everyone in between. Oh yes. And a new executive director, who is extremely excited about both her new job and her new community.

Members of the greater Meadville community are cordially invited to stop in at 378 Chestnut St., where today’s festivities will continue until 6 p.m.

July 21 was Judy Ventresca’s first day at the organization’s helm. Since then, she’s been busy.

For starters, she’s getting acquainted with a whole new community. She’s commuting from Girard, where’s she’s lived since moving from her native Beaver County two years ago.

“It’s good that I’m not from here, because that gives me the opportunity to meet everybody new and fresh,” she explained during a recent interview. “We’re advertising that it’s a whole new beginning here — not just because I’m new here, but because there are new programs, new classes and we’re updating the facilities.”

In recent years, funding problems have plagued the organization, which

has been serving the Meadville community since 1914. In January 2006, for example, the swimming pool was closed in response to a $40,000 gap between available funds and the annual cost of operating the pool. It was hoped that the closing would be temporary. However, by late July of that year, the board had weighed its options and decided to keep it closed.

While the pool remains closed, at least for the foreseeable future, the rest of the building has been undergoing a transformation.

“We’re cleaning house — throwing away everything we don’t need anymore,” Ventresca said during a recent interview. With the help of 14 student volunteers from Allegheny College, walls have been painted. New carpeting has been installed and new fitness equipment has been put into place. Although some work remains, “everything’s going to have a fresh coat of paint and new carpeting by the end of the year,” she said.

But that’s only the beginning. A new room for using free weights and exercise balls and mats has been created. The former ladies’ locker room has also been transformed, with part accessible to both men and women and the rest turned into a room for preschoolers to take classes with their parents.

“Then we spent a lot of money on brand-new treadmills, ellipticals, bikes and new weight machines for the fitness rooms downstairs,” Ventresca explained. “Everything is new when it comes to fitness. Like I said, it’s a new beginning.”

Then there are the classes.

From 1991 to 1997, while she was raising her children, the new executive director taught aerobics for the YMCA in Beaver County and also worked part-time for Weight Watchers.

In 1997, she opened up her own fitness place, Fitness and Fun for Everyone. “It had fitness programs, children’s programs, baton lessons and classes for seniors,” she said. “A lot of the stuff I did there, I’m implementing here.”

Two years ago, she married her husband, Mark, and moved to Girard, where they now live with her two daughters and his two sons. She recently received a master’s degree in business administration; in addition to serving as executive director, she is also the Y’s early care and education grant coordinator.

She’ll also be leading a weight-loss class called I’m Losing It. “It’s a support class,” she explained with a grin. “I gained back all my weight, so I’ll lead it — and I’m going to participate. It will be a lose-weight-with-the-new-executive-director type of thing.”

Then there will aerobics classes. And classes in tumbling, cheerleading and even fly fishing, to name just a few. Oh yes. The Majestics baton drill team is also being re-formed and dance classes will begin in December.

“We’ve got lots of things developing,” Ventresca said, noting that classes begin Sept. 15.

Funding for the new beginning came in the form of a bequest. While the name of the donor and the amount of the donation remain confidential, “that’s making all this possible — with lots left over,” Ventresca said. “We received a really, really nice-sized donation.”

It was not, however, big enough to cover the more than $100,000 per year Ventresca estimates it will take to maintain the pool.

“There are other things we need to work on first to get people back in the building,” she said. “Then we’ll look at the pool.” In the meantime, however, the organization is working with an engineer, an architect and a builder to gather ideas about what could be done with the area. “I would love to be able to say we’re going to reopen it,” she said, “but I can’t do that.”

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