The Gahanna/John E. Bickley YMCA's new executive director said he wants residents to know more of the story about their Y.

The Gahanna/John E. Bickley YMCA's new executive director said he wants residents to know more of the story about their Y.

"We want to be known as a partner and collaborator to help when needed," Paul Westenheffer said. "When looking at planning, consider us. We need to hear from folks."

Westenheffer, who comes to the Gahanna branch after being director at the Hilltop Y, said he believes in the YMCA's mission to serve the whole community through programs that express Judeo-Christian principles and build a healthy spirit, mind and body.

Of the YMCA's 12 facilities in central Ohio, he said, Gahanna's serves the most clients -- more than 12,000 members.

"It can touch everyone in the community," Westenheffer said. "Anyone can be connected. The usage it gets is unbelievable, with 30-35,000 walk-throughs a month."

He said the largest program at Gahanna's 38,000-square-foot facility is swim lessons. Every seven weeks, 450 kids are taught how to swim, he said. The Y offers six sessions per year, Westenheffer said.

In addition to the indoor/outdoor pool and therapy pool, the facility features a full-size gymnasium, a fitness center and a multiuse room. Area off-site locations are the group exercise and fitness center at Clark Hall and day camp at the New Horizons Community Church.

With Gahanna's senior center and city pools slated for possible closure, pending the outcome of November's income-tax measure, Westenheffer said, opportunities are being explored whereby the Y might be able help.

"We like to view everything we do here as portable," he said. "Most of what we do here we can take on the road -- take it to a church or a city field."

A new program offering at the Y will be held from 4 to 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 12. The program is called "Parents Night Out for Special Needs Families."

"There are challenges with special-needs families," said Michael Sponhour, a Gahanna YMCA advisory board member.

For the past six months, the Gahanna Y also has offered Silver Sneakers, a program to help older adults take greater control of their health by encouraging physical activity and offering social events.

"We had over 3,000 Silver Sneaker visits last month," Westenheffer said. "I think that's significant."

The Gahanna Y also is a training location for Navy SEALS preparations.

Westenheffer said a retired Navy veteran there pushes young men through intensive training every weekday morning in preparation for the challenge to become a Navy SEAL.

"There are all these awesome things this Y has," he said. "I want to get the message out."

Sponhour said enough hasn't been done to tell what all is going on at the Y.

"The YMCA is also a social-service organization," he said. "We do a lot to help people. There are a lot of great fitness centers. We go beyond that."

In November, the Gahanna Y offers "One Meal at a Time," a program involving some of the Y's 100 volunteers who will deliver about 60 Thanksgiving meals and food vouchers.

"Everything the Y does comes back to a common tie," he said. "The Y can touch everyone."

In March 2014, the Gahanna YMCA will celebrate a decade of serving the local community.