ShareThis Page
News

New YMCA named after Hill District activist

| Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2010, 12:00 p.m.

When Eric Mann asked Hill District activist Thelma W. Lovette if she would mind having the new YMCA named after her, she didn't hesitate.

"Are you kidding me• I love the YMCA. It would be an absolute privilege," said Mann, president and CEO of Greater Pittsburgh YMCA, recalling Lovette's response.

Lovette, 94, and her daughter, Thelma Morris, 61, were among more than 100 Hill District residents and community leaders who marked the ceremonial groundbreaking of the $12 million Thelma Lovette Family YMCA on Monday in the Hill District.

"To think that at my age, when I'm ready to kick the bucket, they're naming this after me," Lovette said. "God has blessed me tremendously. Thank you, thank you, thank you."

The ceremony culminated nearly six years of planning for the YMCA, which will have an indoor track, gymnasium and aquatic center, among other amenities.

"This is truly, truly a historical day as we move forward for our community," said Aaron Gibson, executive director of the nearby YMCA at 2621 Centre Ave.

The true focus of the celebration, however, was "Miss Thelma," who energetically hugged and kissed well-wishers. Born Thelma Williams, her family has been a big part of city and Hill District history, including brother Robert "Pappy" Williams, the first black magistrate in Pittsburgh, former Deputy County Controller Frank Williams and former District Justice Jacob Williams.

"When you think of all the people who we would want to name (the YMCA) after, her name comes to the top of the list every time," said Tom Burley, board chairman of the Centre Avenue YMCA, which will continue to offer housing, food pantries and other services even after the new YMCA opens.

Lovette was the first woman to sit on the boards of the Centre Avenue YMCA and the Greater Pittsburgh YMCA.

In 1972, Lovette, at age 56, earned her master's degree in social work. She spent 18 years at Mercy Hospital as a social worker.

Morris said her mother tirelessly worked for the YMCA, including starting an activity program for stroke victims and developing programs for Hill District youths.

"She always tried to teach the young people that where you start off is not where you need end up," Morris said.

For the past year, Lovette has been living with her daughter in San Tan Valley, Ariz., southeast of Phoenix. She said she hopes to return once the YMCA opens, scheduled for late next year. Morris said the Olympic torch her mother carried in 1996 for the Summer Games in Atlanta will be displayed at the new facility.

"(The YMCA) was part of my life ever since I was a little girl," Lovette said.

Additional Information:

Thelma Lovette Family YMCA

Where: 2114 Centre Ave., between Addison and Elmore streets, Hill District

Scheduled opening: Late 2011

Cost: $12 million

Size: 43,000 square feet

Features: Indoor track, gymnasium, aquatic center with six-lane swimming pool, wellness center, multipurpose and senior space, a room geared for teens and a computer lab

Sources: YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh and Urban Redevelopment Authority

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me