(This is Part 3 of a series of articles questioning the tax exempt status of the YMCA.)
In Part 2, we discussed the closing of the YMCA’s Southway Shopping Center site in December, 2010. While the executive board pondered the business decision, nobody from YMCA leadership was seeking community advice from the shopping center owners, their real estate agents, or south side redevelopment members. In fact, the shopping center owners learned of the closing when they read about it in the November newspaper article.
Ingrid Mercado, a YMCA staff member at the Southway center told a Muncie StarPress reporter, “I’ve heard some people say that (they were unaware the South Y’s existence), but we’ve been here for a while and it’s still a social and physical outlet for many people,” Mercado said.
In recent discussions with executive board members of the YMCA, they indicated that they analyzed the declining attendance for months, and made a “business decision” to close the facility. When reaching the “business decision” to close the south side location, CEO Cathy Clark notified the newspaper, and gave members 30 days notice.
When the executive committee was asked why they didn’t tell the center’s owners, the board president said, “We didn’t have to, we sublet the property from the hospital and had no obligation to inform the shopping center owners.”
When a core part of your mission is building strong communities, why not contact the shopping center owners and tell them you are finding it difficult to make a profit? Why not ask them for assistance? Why not seek feedback from the surrounding neighbors? Were surveys taken of Y members asking them how the Y could better improve the south Muncie location?
We’re not advocating for financial irresponsibility, but when you’re receiving taxpayer subsidies to run your organization, and your mission is to build strong communities, a stronger effort would seem warranted before closing your branch. It would have proven beneficial for managing public perceptions.
Based on this lack of community involvement, the Muncie Family YMCA must have analyzed the branch operations as a pure business decision. Membership revenues versus center expenses. That sounds like a business decision, not the decision-making process of a charitable organization with a mission of building strong communities.
When the YMCA added its facility to the Yorktown community in 2010, the Town of Yorktown purchased equipment for the new facility. Did the CEO of the Muncie Family YMCA, Cathy Clark, make every attempt to improve the south side branch by exploring grants available to equip the center with newer equipment to help attract new members and make a positive impact on an area of town which needs the most help? Were proposals made to the City of Muncie, or Delaware County?
We verified with both City and County that no proposals were made by the YMCA.
While senior leadership of the YMCA chose to abandon the south side of Muncie, one of their executive board members and senior staff were exploring a new YMCA facility with a multimillion dollar water park project at Tuhey Park with a majority of the funding to be provided by the citizens of Muncie and Delaware County.
We will discuss the Tuhey project in part 4 of this series, and introduce existing Internal Revenue Service policies governing charitable organizations that derive income from unrelated business practices, or in the case of the YMCA, their fitness club memberships.