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The Heartbeat of the Neighborhood

Residents of College Park, Pine Hills and the surrounding areas are eagerly awaiting the opening of the new Leonard & Marjorie Williams Family YMCA. Slated to open later this year, the facility hopes to cater to the needs of all in the community.  

Executive Director Sonya Crider, known affectionately as “Coach,” took on her new role in the fall of last year. Since that time, she has listened to area residents sharing their hopes and needs for the Y in order to decide what the facility should offer to best suit the community at large. Some of the amenities will include an expansive aquatic center, child development center, a teen space, boutique studio, and a wellness floor. A gymnasium is expected in phase two of construction.

Crider notes that this new Y also offers a significant and positive change to the Packing District.  “This facility is intentionally in a space where there was nothing other than trucking companies before—not even trees. However, we are seeing a refurbishment and a revitalization; a real Phoenix rising from the ashes-type situation. We are creating jobs and opportunities.” She adds, “We recognize that neither community on either side of the building is better than the other. We want everyone who comes through the doors of the Y to feel that this is all a level playing field and everybody is welcome.”

No stranger to the Orlando area, the former professional basketball player and native of Chicago worked for years as a basketball coach, full-time teacher and dean of students with Orange County Public Schools. Crider was also an integral member of the OCPS Minority Leadership Consortium, helping to change practices that would give 85% of all out-of-school suspensions and expulsions to children of color (15% of the student population), by instilling programs like PASS (Positive Alternatives for School Suspension).

While the Y is known for being the hub of the community, Crider says it’s important to note that there are many ways the community can help the Y in its continuance of providing engaging programs and scholarships to its members. “As a nonprofit, the Y’s mission to improve lives is sustained thanks to the generous support of our donors. Our capital campaign goes to our facility and its construction and expansion projects.” She continues, “Though our building is now set, we still need to complete phase two, which will be the gymnasium.” Crider says she sees many community benefits to the gymnasium, noting, “it can be used as a potential shelter in the event of a hurricane as well as a place for kids to play when it gets too hot outside.”

Crider adds, “We also have our annual campaign which takes place all year, every year. Through this campaign, we are able to make the Y available to everyone. The funding allows us to provide scholarships and financial assistance to as many people as possible that may need it so that no one is deterred from joining the Y due to cost.”

Crider also shares that the new Leonard & Marjorie Williams Family YMCA is currently hiring for multiple positions and is expected to create more than 100 new local jobs. “I’m trying to hire the community; I want the people from the community to run this facility. I want this to be home for everyone. I used to make my basketball team sleep in the gym. I would say, ‘How are you going to defend it if it’s not your home?’ This Y will be home to everyone in the community.” She notes, “We hire down to the age of 16 for certain positions.”

In looking ahead to opening day, Crider says she has high hopes for the positive impact of the new facility. “I’m looking forward to seeing how the Y will bridge the communities it serves.” On a personal note, she adds, “I’m also looking forward to seeing some of the students that I’ve taught or coached over the years come into this building with their children. That’s going to be the best part!”

For those interested in learning more about the new Leonard & Marjorie Williams Family YMCA or to view current employment opportunities at the facility, visit