Community Volunteers Step in to Save a Y

May 9, 2011; Source: Club Industry | In early 2011 in Elmira, N.Y., the Chemung County YMCA decided it could not go forward any longer. Owing $8,000 in rent, it had agreed to volunteer all of its fitness equipment to the county when the community stepped forward and proved that it fully “owned” the endeavor. More than 2000 local residents signed a petition asking local officials to help find a solution while small grassroots groups of elders and young people from a nearby university met and considered what might be done to save the Y.

All of this paid off with the Y being adopted by a local senior center. A number of former Y members have made donations and have taken on annual memberships. A committee made up of some of the former members of the Y and some senior center representatives have devised a new budget, including new fees and new programs. They have also gotten started on the facility’s refurbishment.

This is an interesting and profound situation. Did the Y know that this support was present? Did it not consider how it might be mobilized or did it take a crisis to convince local people that they truly needed to “own” this community resource? Lots to ponder here as we consider what wasted resources in the form of people might be present around our own organizations.—Ruth McCambridge