Robert Mericle was introduced to the Wilkes-Barre Family YMCA when he was just five years old and joined the swim team. He spent a good deal of his childhood at the YMCA, and as he grew, he came to fully understand the value of the YMCA’s role in keeping kids off the streets and developing their character by providing a safe environment for a wide range of activities.
In 1998, the YMCA began a $5.5 million capital improvement campaign to fund a lobby expansion, a new six-lane 25-yard swimming pool, a racquetball court, family locker room, shower room, woman’s fitness center, gym, wellness center, childcare center, development center, and social teen center.
Mr. Mericle donated his time and the time of several architects, engineers, and estimators employed by Mericle Construction, Inc. to provide construction management and value engineering services to the project. Before Mr. Mericle became involved, there was a risk of the construction costs exceeding the budget by more than $1 million. Several on the board of trustees felt that some of the improvements would need to be omitted. However, Mr. Mericle took responsibility for the project’s management and helped complete the planned scope of work within the original project budget.
Mr. Mericle also donated $500,000 for the full funding of the new six-lane pool and personally commissioned the talents of a local artist to create and hand-paint a marine life mural surrounding the pool area.
The YMCA’s summer camp and retreat center, Camp Kresge, is located on 1,100 acres in White Haven, Pennsylvania. Through his service on the board of trustees, Mr. Mericle became aware of the financial hurdles associated with maintaining and operating the 1,100 acre camp. In 2004, Mr. Mericle developed a renewable, income generating, environmentally-friendly timber harvesting project for the YMCA. The project entailed selling the timber rights for hard wood timber located on the Camp’s property, which would ensure the on-going financial viability of Camp Kresge. The harvesting occurred and the total timber sales for the project netted the YMCA more than $800,000.
Mr. Mericle has also donated new stainless steel industrial kitchen equipment to Camp Kresge and for many years has sponsored children to attend YMCA camps including “Camp Asthmacadabra,” a week-long camp for children with asthma. He has also donated the use of Mericle Construction’s heavy equipment, manpower, and stone material to repair wash outs of the two mile, stone-based, private access road that connects the Camp to Route 437. In 2011, he contributed $100,000 to the YMCA for the purchase and installation of a three pole outdoor climbing tower and high and low ropes course at the Camp.
In 2013, Mr. Mericle designed a unique educational program – Blue Sky at YMCA Camp Kresge – in cooperation with the YMCA. He has funded scholarships for close to 3,000 underprivileged children to attend the Blue Sky program. Blue Sky scholarship recipients enjoy many activities from boating and swimming, to sports and games, to arts and crafts. The Blue Sky program provides students hope, positive opportunities, and great days outdoors.
In 2014/2015, Mr. Mericle donated the use of Mericle’s design team and heavy equipment operators to construct new athletic fields on the Camp’s grounds.
A few years ago, when the YMCA’s Wilkes-Barre building was facing mounting operational and maintenance expenses, Mr. Mericle provided what has been perhaps his most valuable guidance to date.
In 2011, an out-of-town, residential developer approached the YMCA with a proposal to buy the Wilkes-Barre building, convert 40% of the total space to collegiate housing, and lease the remaining space back to the YMCA for its operations. While this proposal would provide immediate financial relief to the YMCA, the long-term impact would have resulted in an onerous financial burden, threatening its operations. Using his real estate expertise, Mr. Mericle restructured the entire transaction to allow the YMCA to maintain its ownership of the building with the developer becoming a project consultant to the YMCA. Dubbed the 40 West Residential Project, the project has been a tremendous success and is generating significant positive cash flow for the YMCA, easing financial strains and providing substantial liquidity to the organization.
Additional corporate sponsors are needed to help Blue Sky thrive well into the future.
For more information about sponsoring Blue Sky, contact Mericle’s Manager of Community Affairs, Emily Courtois.