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Covington Y names volunteer of the year
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Greg Ellwanger has been a physical therapist at Rockdale Medical Center for 27 years. He and his wife live in Newborn and have three sons. In his spare time, he volunteers at Covington Family YMCA, helping lead swimmers to state championship titles over the years.

Ellwanger will be named ‘volunteer of the year' by The Covington Y. He will be amongst other honorees at the YMCA of Metro Atlanta annual volunteer recognition dinner on Nov. 8 at the Cobb Galleria Center.

Ellwanger has a long history associated with the Y. He took his first swimming lessons at the Atlanta Y, later joining the swim team. While attending the University of Georgia, he became one of the college's All-Conference swimmers.

In 2004, when he decided to start volunteering at the Covington Y, Ellwanger found there was no swim team at the facility. Speaking with Mike Chism, the director of the Covington Y at the time, he suggested starting a swim team.

"There was nothing like that in Newton County," said Ellwanger. "So when we talked about starting a swim team and he said ‘go for it'."

The team started with eight members. Over the subsequent years, the team steadily grew and would send about 15 swimmers to state championships each year since its inception-some of which have returned home with trophies. Last summer, the swim team tallied 95 members.

The team's large number of participants led to Ellwanger's oldest son Drew, 21, becoming head coach. Drew is a collegiate swimmer at Gardner-Webb University in North Carolina. His two younger sons, Joey, 16, and Robbie, 15, are also lifeguards at the Y.

"It got to the point where one volunteer couldn't handle it all anymore," said Ellwanger. "But it's great to see the kids develop with the sport. Besides, this is something that could save their life one day."

According to Ellwanger, the Y has more swimmers headed to state championships, and winning them, than any Rockdale league. The Y also has an impressive record from the Rockdale swim meets. During the last four years, the team took first place twice (including this year) and second place twice.

Besides volunteering at the Y, Ellwanger also volunteers as the head official with the Rockdale swim league and is head coach for the Rockdale Riptides, a year-round USA swim team.

"I'm humbled," said Ellwanger, of being honored by the Y. "Hopefully I can inspire other folks whether through the Y or anything else to volunteer in their community. We've got a great generation of young kids ... more people need to be involved."

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