If you are a member of the media working on a story regarding the YMCA, looking for video or photography at the YMCA or are just looking for story ideas, please contact:
Mary Flagg Lewis, Marketing Coordinator: (724) 658-4766 ext. 13


Here’s what’s been happening at your neighborhood Y. Many people have no idea how hard we work in our community. Please view some of our stories to learn more about us.

  • Through thick and thin, Y has stood as a shining light for the community

    March 30, 2020

    New Castle News Article By Kayleen Cubbal

    Monday through Friday, without fail, you will see Augie Smarrelli at the Lawrence County YMCA.

    He might be on the racquetball courts or just sitting around shooting the breeze with his friends.

    Smarrelli, in fact, hasn’t missed a lot of days at the Y since he turned 6 years old — and the North Hill resident is now 75.

    “I lived on Butler Avenue and we could walk downtown to the old Y,” he said. “On weekends, we would go swimming for 10 cents. I was 6 when I first started and I loved it.

    “The older I got, the more I went. Around 1962, they opened the new Y and I joined the health club and have been a member ever since. When I was in my mid-20s, racquetball started getting popular so I took that up and for years, I’ve been playing almost every day. 

    “I’ve made a lot of good friends there,” Smarrelli added. “On the days I don’t play racquetball, sometimes I just go down to take a shower and sit around and talk with my friends.”


    The local Y is 153 years old. The original YMCA was located in a building donated by Ira D. Sankey in 1885, on the corner of East Washington and North Jefferson streets (where the old Penn Power building currently sits). In 1911, a new building was constructed where the current Y stands. In 1963, that building was demolished and the current facility was built in 1964.

    In an area that has seen much economic decline in recent years due to the loss of the steel industry and the jobs that went with it, the Lawrence County YMCA has been a beacon.

    “There have been changes locally, but you know that the Y is always going to be there,” said Maria McKee, chief executive officer of the Lawrence County YMCA (which recently changed its name from New Castle Community YMCA), the Preston-Chambers Y-Zone and the Y’s dek hockey rink on Phelps Way in the city. “We are an anchor in the community and we always will be.”

    McKee started her career at the New Castle Y 22 years ago, serving as chief financial officer, associate executive director and chief operating officer. She left in 2015 to oversee 17 branches as director of annual giving with the YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh, but maintained her home in New Castle and was only too happy to return when Dick Lyons retired in 2018.

    Although she has served as an accountant, she said she has never wanted to limit herself to that.

    “I’m a people person,” she said. “I probably was in the Y twice when I had a reason to be here with my daughter before I began working here. But from the minute I walked in, I was sold. I knew once I started working at the Y that I wanted to spend the rest of my life here.

    “There is nothing better to me than seeing the everyday changes we are able to make in the lives of both kids and adults.”

    The Y’s mission statement is to strengthen the community through youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. Current membership is over 5,000 men, women and children, who are accepted regardless of age, income or background, with an emphasis on health and well-being. Between 100 and 120 paid employees, along with numerous volunteer coaches, work at the Y at any given time to staff the 5:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. hours downtown.

    And while many members pay to use the Y’s facilities, just as many do not.

    “We don’t turn anyone away for inability to pay. We are open to all,” McKee said. “We are a charity, and while our membership fees pay for operational expenses, such as wages, utilities and equipment, the membership fees do not pay for the financial assistance and subsidies we offer each year.

    “Last year, we awarded over $300,000 in direct subsidies,” she added. “These funds not only go to kids, families and individuals who benefit from membership and program assistance, but also to subsidize programs, such as the School Learn to Swim program, which is offered at a greatly subsidized cost, and also the Section 8 Summer Learn to Swim Program, which is a free program that includes transportation to and from the Y and a free swimsuit. This is why we conduct an annual campaign each year.

    “It’s obvious that for some of the kids that come here, it’s the best part of their day. We provide them with mental, spiritual and physical ways to maintain wellness or to get well if they’re struggling.”


    Like Smarrelli, Guy Natale is a 4-to-5 day a week fixture at the local Y, usually playing racquetball at the main location or pickleball at the Y-Zone.

    “I like to exercise and I always like to agitate,” the 81-year-old Natale said. “There is a lot of camaraderie with the guys down there. 

    “I was also a member the old Y and since the inception of the new Y, about 10 of us as a group have been members. I spend 2 or 21/2 hours down there a day and it’s just a good way to spend time, stay fit and form friendships.”

    Those friendships are one reason that Dorice Shover retired from the local Y after 22  years, then returned just over a year ago.

    “Everything is right about this organization,” she said. “This is exactly what the community needs. I have seen so many kids grow through the Y through the years — kids who came from disadvantaged homes who went on to succeed in life because the Y showed them the path.

    “When I came back, I would see the same people who were there before and they said, ‘Oh, Dorice, you’re back, welcome back.’ The Y is just so welcoming.”

    Shover, 65, who previously served as director of human resources, teaches fitness classes and trains newer staff members whenever McKee asks. She also volunteers at events.

    “Even though I’m older, I’m in pretty good shape,” she said. “I like to see women feel stronger and feel empowered to move on with their lives through fitness.”


    “YMCA Fun Days” is a program created for the Lawrence County Y that delivers programs to children and families in Lawrence County’s Section 8 housing development. These days began in the summer of 2019, when, through partnerships with other community organizations, the children benefited with engaging activities, while their parents were presented with resources and other opportunities as well. This program is expected to be expanded this summer, with the hopes of launching a full-blown “Y on the Fly” in the near future, similar to the one started by the Pittsburgh Y while McKee was working there. 

    McKee says that she and the 25-member board are extremely connected.

    “My mentor, (former CEO) Bill Lutz taught me that you have to take care of your community and to do that you have to have a strong board,” she said. “We have the best board I’ve ever worked with. They are passionate about the Y and passionate about the community. We feed off each other.”


    McKee says that she has no plans to move on. She is home in every sense of the word.

    “This is my dream job,” she said. “I truly love the Y. I’m up every morning at 4:30 to get here to work out. And the job is never the same two days in a row. Last week, I had to go and unplug a toilet. Another day, I spent talking to some Silver Sneakers widows. 

    “I am well aware that a lot of people aren’t happy in their jobs, but when you can go to work and change lives, then those are good days.” 

  • Still a big wheel in his hometown: Retired car dealer Bob Chambers has not forgotten where he came from

    November 29, 2019

    A New Castle News Article by Dan Irwin

    For nearly 60 years, the name was an iconic part of the New Castle community.

    As far as Maria McKee is concerned, it still is. She just wonders how many other people realize that.

    The Chambers Motor Co. opened in 1925 on North Street before moving to Croton Avenue and finally to West Grant Street, where the Chrysler-Plymouth dealership served the New Castle area for four more decades before it was sold in 1984 by Bob Chambers, the son of the founder.

    Chambers relocated from New Castle to Annapolis, Maryland, in 2014, but the 93-year-old hasn’t forgotten his roots, even though, as McKee believes, much of the community might not remember him.

    It’s her intention to remedy that.

    McKee, the chief executive officer of the New Castle Community YMCA, said Chambers has donated more than $1 million during his lifetime to the Y, and that he and local auto magnate Bob Preston were the driving forces behind the creation of the Preston-Chambers Y-Zone in Neshannock Township.

    “He was always such a big part of the Y,” McKee said. “He would always come and visit and, aside from his financial support, which was quite significant and generous, he would just come in to visit and talk to the staff and was always such a big part of what we did.”

    But that was before she left for Pittsburgh in 2015 after 20 years in various leadership roles at the Y.

    But when she returned as CEO in 2018, a new staff was in place and the name "Bob Chambers" did not have the same reaction.

    She believes that with the Chambers dealership having been gone from New Castle’s cityscape for 35 years, many residents may be similarly stymied.

    “I don’t care if I don’t get another penny from him,” McKee said. “I just want to be able to say who Bob Chambers was, when somebody comes along and sees the Y-Zone."

    Bob Chambers said the Y was an important part of his childhood.

    “My mother died as the result of an automobile accident in 1934,” he said from his home in Maryland. “I was without a mother, and my father was very busy in his business. So he took me to the Y, and I went to Y camp for I couldn’t begin to guess how many years."

    Y camp was a big part of his life, Chambers said. And later, the Y would be, too.

    Chambers said he and his wife “gave quite a little bit of money” to the Y-Zone project, but he passed most of the credit to Preston. “He did an outstanding job putting that together … Bob Preston was the leader of the band, and I just kind of followed along.”

    Chambers continues to follow and to support all the developments at the Y as well.

    “He’s just one of those people that has a profound impact and is still having a profound impact,” McKee said. “I’ve only been here a year, but he’ll call me every six months, ‘I need to know these things.’ He’ll ask me, ‘What are we doing for kids?’ ‘How’s our cash flow?’"

    And that caring will last a lifetime and beyond, she said.

    “He’s done so much that is still growing in this community. But there’s just nobody who talks about him and the legacy he’s going to leave himself.”

    Chambers looks at it more as a duty than a legacy.

    “I believe that if you have a successful, happy time in any community, you do have the obligation of returning something to that community,” he said. “I believe very firmly that New Castle is a prime example of people who had a very successful career who didn’t remember the city, during their lifetime or in their wills.”

    One person who remembers and still keeps in touch with Chambers is Preston, who in 1989 launched the first of what has grown into a family of car dealerships in western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio.

    The relationship is more than professional. Chambers’ wife was the first cousin of Preston’s father.

    “Our families have always been pretty close and I not only keep in touch with Bob, but I am in touch with his sons,” Preston said.

    Moreover, Chambers gave Preston his start in the car business in 1980.

    “I learned an awful lot from Bob and he was a big part of me becoming the businessman I am today,” Preston said.

    In addition, he said, Chambers played a pivotal role in Preston’s own support of the Y.

    “With Bob, the big thing that he encouraged me to do after he was retired, and I came back to New Castle and started buying dealerships, he was very influential and encouraging me to get involved with the YMCA and to take on the project of building the Y-Zone,” Preston said. “Not only did he help financially, but he gave me direction and encouraged me to undertake that project and raising the money.”

    Although Preston’s sons Kevin and Bobby oversee the family dealerships now, the elder Preston and his wife Joanne remain in the community and are major supporters of the United Way as well.

    As for McKee, she continues to look for ways to remind local residents that Chambers remains a vital part of their community, too.

    “But other than the Y-Zone, which is the Preston-Chambers Y Zone, he never really wanted recognition,” she said. “We do the Salute Award every year, and I would love to do a salute to Bob, but he’s not the kind of guy that would want that. He doesn’t like the spotlight.”

  • Salute to Ralph Blundo

    September 27, 2019

    Many thanks to those who attended the 2019 Salute to Award Dinner which was held on September 26, 2019. Assistant Principal and Varsity Boys Basketball Coach Ralph Blundo was honored with the Jack & Nancy Flannery Salute to Award for his commitment to building a strong Lawrence County. Attendees enjoyed a video presentation highlighting the many positive developments Ralph has brought to the community through his encouragement and tough love mentality on the youth of New Castle to reach thier full potential regardless of their background or circumstances. We salute Ralph and his team for the impact they have made on our community. 

    We also want to extend our gratitude to all the sponsors and donors who made this event possible:

    Preston Auto Group

    PNC Bank

    Ralph Blundo Sr.

    Ellwood Group

    Mr. & Mrs. Scott & Amy Fehrs

    First Commonweatlh Banks
    Bill Flannery
    Human Services Center

    Huntington Bank
    Klafter’s Foundation
    Lawrence Community Foundation

    Neshannock Township
    Packer Thomas
    Westminster College

    Arnett, Carbis, Toothman
    Aven Fire Systems
    Classi-Co Foods
    Daniel Soom & Larry Keith
    New Castle School Administrators
    Panella Family Foundation
    Anthony Staph

    Dr. Paul Wawryzinski

    Daystar Marketing
    Doran Concrete
    Pizza Joe's


  • Diamond Girls Returned Empowered to Make the Community Great

    September 12, 2019

    Our New Castle YMCA Diamond Girls that attended the Global Youth Leadership Summit in San Diego returned with a new resolve and deep appreciation to Steve and Natalie Vitale for the role they played in helping them attend the leadership summit. Steve and Natalie Vitale provided scholarships to the seven girls that attended.

    In order to receive the scholarship the girls had to write essays on why they should attend and how attending would have a positive effect on them. Attending the summit was so life changing that the girls encouraged the remaining Diamond Girls that did not attend to find a way to go to the summit next year.

    We’re so proud of the Diamond Girls and we can’t wait to see how they will impact the community this year.

  • UPMC Jameson Gifts Lifesaving Equipment

    May 30, 2019

    In April we found out that one of our members had a very rare heart condition. During one of our fitness classes this member collapsed. Thankfully the instructor was a trained nurse and there were class participants who had just finished life guard, cpr/first aid training with Brittany Zastawniak. They worked as a team and were quick to respond resulting in a lifesaving shock for our AED.

    After the member was taken to the hospital we discovered that our AED was so outdated it was difficult for medical professionals to retrieve the data they needed from the device. Since that incident members of our staff have been working with UPMC Jameson and Chery Rickens the EMS Specialist for the AED program with UPMC to get us a new AED.

    This past Tuesday UPMC Jameson gifted The New Castle Community YMCA, Mount Jackson Presbyterian Church and the Vocational and Psychological services state of the art AEDs. This donation was made possible by the UPMC Jameson Junior guild.

    We will be forever grateful to UPMC Jameson and the UPMC Jameson Junior guild for their dedication to community outreach and helping to keep New Castle healthy. 

    *Check out The New Castle News coverage HERE

  • Welcome to the Board!

    May 24, 2019

    We are fortunate to add 3 new members to our Board!  Carole Sheen(right) is the co-chair for our member to member campaign and had graciously come back to our board after retiring from Blair Strip Steele. Tiffany Preston, DVM(left) has been a long time member and supporter of the New Castle Community YMCA and advocate of swim safety Y programs. Valarry Frymoyer(middle) is a SVP in Treasury Management at First Commonwealth Bank. We are honored to have her financial expertise and council.

  • Diamond Girls – Take on the Capital

    May 9, 2019

    Earlier this week a several of our Diamond Girls headed to the capital in support of Tobacco21. An initiative in favor of raising the age from 18 to 21 years old in order to purchase tobacco and tobacco products. Along with taking a tour of the capital and participating in the day’s events they met with our state Senators Elder Vogel and Chris Sainato.

    The Diamond Girls along with Sen. Vogel are in favor of the Tobacco21 initiative as it will leave fewer youths vulnerable to nicotine addiction and the negative health impacts it could have on their futures.

  • National Day of Prayer Breakfast 2019

    May 6, 2019

    May 2nd we gathered in food and fellowship with our community to pray alongside each other and the entire country for the National Day of Prayer. Breakfast was generously donated by Pete Medure of Medure’s Catering in New Castle; and our speaker was Greg Marshall, Outreach Pastor at New Life Baptist Church in New Wilmington.

    The theme for his talk was John 13:34: “Love one another. Just as I have loved you.” Pastor Marshall spoke to us how we could, “learn to love everybody. Not just our family and friends, but those who have wronged us. Not just our co-works and acquaintances, but even those we pass by that we may not pay attention to.”

    He shared with us the story from Matthew 20 about two blind men who Jesus healed when he was walking through a town. Jesus did five things. He heard their cries; he stopped, looked and acknowledged them. He asked what they wanted from him and he gave them the healing touch. What could we do today in order to emulate what Jesus did in Matthew 20? We could, “listen for clues that people are in pain.[We could] stop whatever [we’re] doing at the moment. [We could] look past people’s behavior to see their value. [We could] ask people what they need [and not assume that we know]. [We could] do whatever [we] can to help – to touch someone else’s pain.”  

    We want to give a big thanks to all those who helped with this event! Special thanks to Pete Medure, Greg Marshall and Jeremy Gardner, Worship Pastor at New Life Baptist.

    Thank you to New Castle News for their feature article

  • Retiring Board Members

    April 26, 2019

    This month 3 of our longest serving board members retired from our board. James Rugh, served as a member of the New Castle Community YMCA board since 1988. His experience and involvement in the community allowed him to council multiple CEOs. Michael Bshero served as a member of the New Castle Community YMCA board since 1998. His financial experience made him made him a valuable asset to many of our CFOs and CEOs over the past 20 years. Bill Fitts (not pictured) served as a board member since 2013. He was a major supporter of our Thanksgiving 5ks.

  • YMCA’s Marcia Jenkins is a Lingua Franca Extraordinary Woman

    April 25, 2019


    March 1-3, 2019 New Castle Community YMCA’s very own Marcia Jenkins was flown to New York City. The trip was to honor her and 12 additional women who had been nominated by close friends, family or community members to be a Lingua Franca Extraordinary Woman!

    Lingua Franca is a cashmere sweater company located in New York City.  Their sweaters are not only sustainably sourced; they are fair trade and hand embroidered by women in NYC. Each article of clothing is a work of art with a saying that was inspired by an impactful woman of her community. Additionally $100 of each sweater sold is donated to a corresponding charity.

    Marcia Jenkins didn’t think of herself as extraordinary or impactful. Although she is, “touched that [her] daughters think,” she is. Her daughter Susan nominated our 80 year old Silver Sneakers fitness instructor. Marcia has spent her life giving to others. As a reading specialist she empowered her students and gave them skills to excel in school and in life. As Y fitness instructor she inspires her classes to, ‘just keep moving.’ Which is her mantra featured on her Lingua Franca Sweater.

    We are blessed to have such an extraordinary woman on staff at our New Castle Community YMCA!

News & Events


For Questions regarding your membership contact
Mary Flagg Lewis Membership & Marketing Director