YMCA Should Fund Community Wellness Programs

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After the previous articles written about the YMCA, we’ve received many positive responses within the community by citizens who also believe the Y no longer represents the best interests of our community.

However, as we’ve indicated, many will not go public with this opinion due to fear of retaliation by this local “Christian” organization which has already banned, or refused membership, to 4 adults, and two children under age 6 who have shared opposite views with the CEO, Cathy Clark.

Many people agree that the poor attempt to build its membership base in south Muncie while opening a facility in Yorktown, or their second facility in NW Muncie’s more affluent area, highlights the Y is catering to their affluent members.

Without having specific access to the Y’s demographics, historically, the YMCA is used by less than 10% of all county residents, and one can imagine with this economy, and high membership rates at the Y, that those numbers have declined.

There are many unhappy citizens in Yorktown who will be fighting the battle of the preferred leases the YMCA received when Steve Lowery negotiated them on behalf of residents, so all we can say is stay tuned as an election year will certainly create some discussion about the Yorktown YMCA.

What about the Muncie Family YMCA? What could they do to become a better community partner?

Especially in light of last weeks 2011 County Health Rankings which show that our overall wellness in Delaware County has gotten worse. We are now ranked 85th out of 92 counties in overall wellness. It’s obvious that the YMCA, in exchange for their tax exempt status, is failing the community in wellness leadership.

What’s the solution?

A rough idea would involve our public officials implementing new public health policies that cover all of Delaware County and make sure the right people are leading this endeavor from the ground up. The community centers (Ross, Buley, and Forest Park), and local parks could become the major activity centers for the City of Muncie. Let the people closest to those involved lead residents.

How to fund this program?

Yet another conversation for local officials.

To help as a starting point, we asked the County Assessor to estimate property taxes for the downtown and the Northwest facility of the YMCA based on current assessed valuations – their respective tax bills would be:

Downtown Muncie          –  $128,484.00 plus storm water and ditch fees
(Valued @ $4.3 MIL)

Northwest Muncie            – $82,122.00 plus storm water and ditch fees
(Valued @ $2.7 MIL)

Therefore, if property taxes were assessed and paid by the YMCA, the City of Muncie would receive an extra $210,606 plus fees annually. That’s a fair starting point.

These funds could contribute toward youth and senior wellness programs at community centers, parks, fund summer lifeguards and programming at Prairie Creek and Tuhey, and help support the Friends of Conley who are providing Summer Youth programs within our city parks beginning this summer, etc.

Times have changed, and the YMCA leadership is not making an impact on helping improve community wellness. It appears to manage its operations through a large endowment bestowed upon it –  in short, it acts like a trust fund baby.

The Board of Managers seem more diligent in managing the trust than advocating for health and wellness in our community. Their past decisions, current fitness center locations, and board makeup, support this assessment and reflect its true mission.

Our public officials need to investigate options such as property taxes, Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT), or other fees against both the value of property and revenue (income) derived from membership fees to help support wellness programs for the entire community.

There is no reason 90% of our population should subsidize fitness club memberships for the other 10% of our neighbors.

It’s time to stop taxpayer subsidies for an organization that is not serving the community – the recent County Health Rankings reinforces that we need to try something new.

Let the Muncie Family YMCA fund community programs for those needing it the most which is their true charitable purpose of building strong communities.


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About Author

Journalist, entrepreneur, publisher, DSA member, and ethical leader with a passion for truth-seeking. Enjoy cycling, yoga, meditation, and spending quality time with my daughter. Wellness advocate who practices servant style leadership.

3 Comments

  1. An interesting read. I am new to Muncie Voice and have been in the area only a couple of years. I do want to say that I have been to the Yorktown Y, the Northwest Y, and the downtown Y. I must confess, I would only go to the downtown Y because of the swimming pool. It is the only location that has one. Otherwise they have not fixed the wheelchair access button in 2 years. I am a mother of 5 and go everywhere with a double stroller. Also, their childcare area is on a second floor. It is VERY difficult to carry a toddler (maybe 2 toddlers?) up the stairs while you are pregnant just to check them in. Half the faucets there do not work. The building is old and many days the hot water isn’t working in the showers. I can imagine why their numbers are low there. BUT, they do provide a week’s worth of free swimming lessons every spring break and I see dozens of children there. They get to go all week long. And a week worth of free tennis lessons. They also offer the marathon every year for the school kids as well as a number of other events. They do help. We have a tight budget and sometimes it is the free events that allow us to do anything on a friday night. As a family of 7, I find the membership rates very reasonable. I MUST have childcare or I do not get to go. And they do offer free tumbling classes for my kids. It saves me from paying for some other activity. There really aren’t many alternatives for a family like mine. My fear is that if the YMCA is charged these taxes, they will simply close the downtown Y up. No more swimming for my kids and no more spring break program. I think it would just hurt the downtown area. Or the YMCA would raise their rates, no more membership at all for me or my kids as I couldn’t afford it. I do not think we can blame the poor health on just the YMCA. I actually think Delaware county would rank much worse if it weren’t for them. I think it would be a mistake to penalize an entity that is geared toward fitness if we are trying to improve overall fitness. Wouldn’t that be like taking a step backward to take one forward?

    • Todd Smekens on

      The poor child watch area got us started with the YMCA, and their CEO, Cathy Clark. She made an elderly woman watch over 20 kids at one time, and a 3 year old was sent to the restroom alone. While inside, the young boy had a long conversation with an adult male who was also using the restroom. When complaints were filed by both mother and father, as opposed to addressing the complaints, the entire family was banned by Cathy Clark.

      As you mentioned, you require child watch to participate, as do many mothers. On the south side of town, where single mothers are the rule, rather than the exception, the YMCA operated a facility and didn’t offer child watch. One of the reasons given for closing the facility was lack of members attending. Maybe you just answered why there was no attendance. Instead of making a programming change, they closed the facility on the south side of town where it was needed the most. Coincidentally, the YMCA in Yorktown was opened earlier that year.

      Actually, the YMCA needs to focus on its charity work and help those areas of town which need it the most. Two-thirds of their fitness centers are now located in affluent parts of Delaware County, and they have no presence on the East or entire Southern side of the community. They make no effort in assisting the existing community centers with programming for fitness.

      Because they pay no taxes, they are allowed to keep memberships low which prevents other fitness centers from entering the marketplace. We have BSU’s facility and YMCA’s all paying no taxes.

      A newer facility to offer them competition will have a difficult time competing, and because of the IRS rulings, fitness centers are not tax exempt organizations. In Delaware County, we need more tax paying companies to enter the market. It would be good for our market choices and improve our tax base. In fact, we see the YMCA as an obstacle of progress for our community.

      The YMCA should focus on its charity work by assisting lower income citizens with access to fitness opportunities. They could program with schools to provide recreational options to kids and parents and use our existing school resources. However, as long as Cathy Clark is CEO of the YMCA, poor leadership will be the norm, and she will continue pulling off their trust fund and do the bare minimum while our community continues to suffer from poorer health.