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Community Group Fights to Keep Durham YMCA

Posted September 20, 2007

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— Durham residents and YMCA officials were scheduled to meet Thursday to discuss the future of the Y's Lakewood center.

In May, YMCA officials announced plans to close their facility in the Lakewood neighborhood of Durham, saying the center is losing $400,000 every year. Officials said that even though it holds 1,000 memberships, fewer than half of its members attend regularly.

News of its proposed closure rallied some members in the community to action.

"I think everyone panicked," said Frances Kerr, of the Save Y Group.

The group will offer up a financial plan Thursday in hopes of saving the Lakewood YMCA.

"The financial concern is a great one, and it may be that we can't overcome it," Kerr said.

"If they come up with a great alternative, we certainly want to hear it," said Jennifer Nelson of YMCA.

Another YMCA is located two miles from the Lakewood center. However, residents said the Lakewood YMCA has been a fixture in the community since 1966, and they do not want to see the center go away.

19 Comments

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  • huronmom Sep 21, 2007

    The Committee to Save the Lakewood YMCA has worked very hard over the last few months to come up with some creative solutions rather than closing the Lakewood YMCA. None of them involve a government bailout but instead focus on serving needs in the community not met by other YMCAs in Durham, and to prevent this facility from being abandoned or replaced by high density housing.

    The situation the Lakewood YMCA finds itself in currently is not a product of supply and demand, as Steve Crisp suggests, but of the Triangle YMCA's focus on Downtown and ATC YMCAs.

  • mykull333 Sep 21, 2007

    Steve Crisp, But we're not living in your ideological world, we're living in the real world. I don't see where anyone here has asked for a government bailout. If you had attended the Save the Lakewood Y meeting, you would have heard multiple viable ideas/options for continuing operations, none of which involved a bailout from the government.

  • Steve Crisp Sep 20, 2007

    To charlyrandy:

    And this is where we apparently part over ideology.

    I don't think that tax-based, non-profit status should exist in the first place. Indeed, I don't think that the federal or state government should tax ANY non-profit, religious, OR commercial entity. Nor do I think it is the responsibliity of government on any level to assist financially in the operating expense, capital expense, or promotion of any private entity -- profit status or intent notwithstanding.

    That is the job of churches, private foundations, private businesses, and individuals. They alone should detemine the necessity and viability of any service organization, not government. In fact, I firmly believe that government should completely remove itself from all aspects of community service and all regulation beyond that of health, zoning, and building code concerns.

    What concerns me is that this is going to turn into just another request for some kind of government bailout "for the children."

  • charlyrandy Sep 20, 2007

    Unfortunately for the "free marketers" no organizations exist in this pure free market of which you speak ... all organizations in the United States exist in a REGULATED free market. Why regulation, because every microecon 101 class will demonstrate the imperfections of the pure free market. It is particularly strange that you assert the free market in this context because the YMCA is 501(c)3 non-profit/not-for-profit/etc. If you do a basic market analysis you see'll the YMCA is already a beneficiary of a regulated free market since not paying taxes reduces its net expenses. So why is it a 501(c)3 organization ... because it has a MISSION to serve the under-served (flaw 2 in your free market argument). What is the Save the Y group trying to do, help the Triangle YMCA be more creative in extending its marketing and programming in this neighborhood for a win/win for everyone.

    Chuck Clifton
    Chairman, Committee to Save the Lakewood YMCA

  • andrewsnc5 Sep 20, 2007

    For those interested in being better informed about this effort, consider joining the Yahoo group, Committee to Save the Lakewood Y. There you will be able to have exchanges with other interested, committed parties on this topic. You will find lots of accurate information there about why the current situation exists, and how the Lakewood Y can again be a very valuable asset to Durham, and the the Y family. Unfortunately this forum, with its current setup, provides nothing more than a sounding board to the "you keep talking, but you ain't saying nothing" crowd.

  • Steve Crisp Sep 20, 2007

    To Durham-Raleigh:

    I still hold to my initial statement, your observations and other's comments notwithstanding.

    Had there been community demand for this particular facility, then its operating budget would have been covered by fees charged. As to programs that were moved...the same holds true. Had demand existed for particular programs, they would have remained even if it meant a duplication with a like facility mere miles away.

    I fail to understand why in a free market some organizations are deemed more important than others. Let the market decide what is needed and what is dross.

    And I can assure you that the YMCA will gladly change its mind if every one of those folks who show up at the meeting whip out their checkbooks and fund the operating budget of the place. The problem is that they haven't in the past and, given the history of situations like this, will not come through in the future to the assured satisfaction of the YMCA directors.

  • Durham-Raleigh Sep 20, 2007

    Thank you, Chuck Clifton and others, for demonstrating for the class the Second Rule of WRAL Thermodynamics:

    "Hot air dissipates when actual facts enter the conversation."

    These comment boards are filled up with the same people, making the same instapundit reactions in with a sometimes demeaning, often know-it-all air. Oddly, though, such reactions as those shown by the first posters disappear when people involved in the story actually share the facts of the story.

  • SuperNupe Sep 20, 2007

    I've been to the Lakewood Y before, its an okay facility, but remember there is a Larger and More equipped YMCA downtown durham, which is only about 5 miles at the most from they Y in Lakewood, thats were all the members are, the Y downtown durham is alot better then the lakewood Y..... So getting rid of this one is understandable to me.... The only thing is how do you tell that to the people who regularly use the Lakewood Y....

  • charlyrandy Sep 20, 2007

    I was skeptical before I got involved. Then I discovered something that I've not seen anywhere else in the Triangle - a multi-generation community of all races, social classes, genders, and fitness levels. The LWY is a place where all differences melt away. So I got to the facts. A surprising number of people use the LWY despite the Triangle YMCA's benign neglect of not reinvesting in the facility, cutting staff, cutting group fitness programs, and conducting no active marketing programs to grow the base membership. The National YMCA conducted an in-depth audit of the LWY and I sat in on the results of that today. They have agreed with the Save the Y group that this is worth saving and can be saved with commitment and effort from the Triangle YMCA.

    I don't know who Jennifer Nelson is but I've been meeting regularly with the CEO & Durham Director of the YMCA and have given them countless creative solutions.

    Chuck Clifton, Chairman, Committee to Save the Lakewood YMCA

  • manturuk Sep 20, 2007

    It sounds like there is some misunderstanding about the situation, perhaps because the story above doesn't include all the details.

    First, the Lakewood YMCA ran in to financial problems and declining membership after the YMCA transfered most of its more popular programs and classes to another location.

    Second, the "Save the Y" group has been researching many different alternatives for the facility. Their objective is to ensure that the building and surrounding grounds remain a community facility and do not become an abandoned area. The group is asking a community-focused organization to evaluate the impacts their decisions have on the community and work with the neighborhood to explore all options.

    Finally, the Durham YMCA's financial difficulties began when the organization merged with the Triangle YMCA and developed two new facilities within a mile of each other in downtown Durham. so blaming the members for that is not accurate.

    Hope that helps clear up some misunderstandings

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