Elizabeth Thomsen | Beverly YMCA Sign

July 23, 2020; Bangor Daily News

In Belfast, Maine, the local YMCA depends on memberships for around 85 percent of its usual operating budget but, as the pandemic stretches on, memberships are filtering away.

Other YMCAs, or at least their branches, have permanently closed in Baton Rouge, LouisianaSouth Bend, Indiana; Pennsylvania; and the metro Chicago area. Others are hanging on for dear life with their combination of high fixed costs, and a high level of dependence on the use of their – now potentially still dangerous – congregate sites.

Peter Farragher, CEO of the Down East Family YMCA in Hancock County, to the east of Belfast, says the Ys are all having similar challenges even as they have brought staff back. “…our usage is down, and slow. Childcare is coming back, but not to the level it was before. Our loss of income is significant.”

Bruce Osgood, membership director of the Waldo County YMCA in Belfast says that the failure of any Y is scary: “That’s our Y family, and it’s hard to hear that. We don’t want that to happen here. We know what they mean to their community, because we know what we mean to ours.”

But to regain any semblance of viability the organization has to work much harder than it used to before its three-month closure to maintain strict safety standards. “We’re trying to meet people where they are,” Osgood said, but. “Everybody’s in a different place.” The Y in Parkersburg, West Virginia, seems to be very much on the same page, recognizing that their numbers will be affected by the continued worries of those who are elderly or who have pre-existing conditions. Still, its CEO believes he can make it work.

The truth is that nonprofits are highly resilient and if they are, as they often attempt to be, a community within a community, they may receive enough help from their friends to sustain. In Lompoc, California, for instance, the city council has decided to waive the Y’s rent on its city-owned building for the year to relieve some of the pressures on the organization. —Ruth McCambridge