By Scott Smith Kokomo Tribune
---- — In less than a week, the Kokomo Family YMCA has received pledges for almost one-fifth of its downtown building project, thanks to the generosity of five prominent Kokomo families and Chrysler Group LLC.
Monday, the Demaree, Severns, Button, Gingerich and Hingst families pledged a combined $2,125,000 to the effort; Thursday, Chrysler announced a $500,000 corporate donation.
The third installment in the run of good news for the Y could come next Monday when Y officials plan to make yet another major announcement, along with updating the public on progress toward the $15 million campaign goal.
“Each of the families has grown up and been a part of Kokomo for many years,” said Syndicate Sales founder Del Demaree. “I think we all agree we want the best community we can have.”
E.P. Severns Jr. is the head of the family in charge of the local Coca-Cola franchise, Don Button and Ivan Gingerich are owners of the Button and McGonigal car dealerships, respectively, and the Hingst family runs Mid-America Beverage. Their names have been a constant in Kokomo leadership and philanthropy circles.
None of them, however, wanted an individual spotlight for their part of Monday’s announcement, preferring instead to “quietly support the community,” as Demaree put it.
The families, YMCA building campaign chair Ron Metz said, are setting an example for the entire community.
“Some can give money, some can give time, and some just give their support, but everyone can give something,” Metz said. “And every time someone gives something, everyone at the Y, from the board to the staff to the members, truly appreciates it. I am just so proud of this community.”
“This outpouring of generosity will go a long way toward ensuring the Kokomo Y can continue to serve all citizens of Howard County,” said executive director Dave Dubois. “The Y board of directors, staff and members are humbled by their commitment to this important effort.”
The proposed 73,000-square-foot building, slated for a city block just south of the current Y, is by far the largest single philanthropic effort in Kokomo’s history.
From the beginning, Y officials have said they understood they couldn’t count on a single major donor writing a check for the majority of the project, like the Lilly family in Indianapolis, or the Cook family in Bloomington.
“I’ve said from the beginning, for this project to have the impact we want, it needs to have breadth as well as depth,” Metz said.
The fact the five Kokomo families wanted to make a joint statement was telling, he said.
“It’s not about one person having a headline, it’s about coming together as a strong team and making this happen.”
Demaree said the Y project stands “head and shoulders” above any other local philanthropic project he’s seen, in that the Y “truly serves the entire community.”
Each year, the Y sponsors about 1,400 individuals by offering free and discounted memberships and entries into programs, an estimated $250,000 annual reinvestment into the community, Metz said.
“It’s for all walks of life, for young and old, for rich and poor,” Demaree said. “If you’re a Northwestern person, you’ll meet Kokomo people, Maconaquah people, Tipton people. It just broadens your exposure at a very young age.”
Scott Smith can be reached at 765-454-8569 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.