Thousands attend YMCA town hall meeting to fight against two branch locations closing
SARASOTA - "The community is so outraged that the board and leadership at the top, I think it’s gonna be tough for them to make," said FL Senator Joe Gruters.
It was standing room only inside the gymnasium where thousands of members met for a town hall meeting to bring solutions to the table and save the YMCA locations in Sarasota scheduled to close in September.
“The purpose is to go forward with a message of hope and a message of solving problems so that in the end our Y will be able to remain open,” said Lucia Barrett.
Barrett is one of the organizers for the group Save Our YMCA is looking to find more members join the fight to save the center.
"We really need help from everybody. We need lawyers, we need fund accountants, we need everyday people,” said Barrett.
Interim CEO Steve Bourne told the crowd the Y’s are $4 million in debt and surrounding competitors are to blame for low memberships and one reason for the branches closing down. Senator Gruters, disagrees saying anew board is needed.
"I think you need a new board, I think you need a new oversight," said Gruters. "The thing is they need a clean separation they do need to separate from the board.”
One by one members, instructors, and community leaders took turns sharing with the Bourne and the board of possible ideas that can help eliminate the debt but they need more time to find a resolution.
"If we get a community champion who will step up and, I know it’s a lot of money to some people, but half a million dollars will give us two year to work on this, said Jim Becherer, co-organizer of Save Our YMCA.
"If the Sarasota board would agree to let us pay the mortgage and keep the Y open until we can get a fundraiser, an effective fundraiser, get an effective membership drive and get where we’re going to wind up,” said Becherer.
For now the members are still left with more questions than answers but have hope they will be able to save their beloved Y.