Dedication to the YMCA Mission is What Drove Petitioner
As a child in a young, single-parent home, the YMCA offered an opportunity to grow and have a better life; this ethos is what drove the person who started the petition behind the local Y's special meeting.
"I certainly would have been worse off, it was the only opportunity to do organized sports," Moose Jaw YMCA member Jeremy Brehm said in an interview with MJ Independent, adding "you can't put a dollar figure on that."
Brehm spoke fondly about his childhood and how important the Y in Regina was in his life. He never would have gotten involved in forcing the special board meeting if it was simply about a fitness centre but rather its about the Y's values and its mission to the community. Those values deal with the spirit, mind and body.
"To be perfectly honest, I could personally afford to go to other facilities. I don't care. I enjoy the sense of community there and being able to help people," Brehm said.
"For many kids, the Y is a place to hang out and participate in activities in a safe building environment. Without the Y, where would they be hanging out? On the street or having nothing to do," Brehm said.
"I see kids down here a lot of the time," he said, adding that some were from families of means while others "could not afford sneakers."
One thing he did say that he never saw at the Fairford Street facility were the board members.
"I've personally never seen any of the board members down here."
He has been a Moose Jaw YMCA member for three and a half to four years, since moving to the city. He has no affiliation with, nor any family working at the Y. Nor does he have a financial interest. He simply wants answers and, if possible, to save the 220 Fairford East location.
Brehm and his daughter both use the Y. The Y is where he got involved in playing basketball, which lead to him coaching at Athol Murray Notre Dame in Wilcox.
"The Y's values are about the well being of the community as a whole. The well being of youth and families are the Y's goals. Why would this location close?" he asked, adding "most kids' programs are run out of there. It contradicts the YMCA's vision and family statement."
Brehm's opinion is that the Y is "being treated like a regular gym and that's not what the YMCA is suppose to be."
The Y has a small indoor gym, which is the only public gym in the city, other than at schools, and the gym is often filled with kids.
Things the local Y could do to help kids might be to organize team sports.
"If I worked there, I would be running a club basketball team out of there for the kids," he said.
He said the Y is a charity, a non-profit and shouldn't be expected to be a money-maker. Few, if any Y's make money, he claimed.
When told the Y lost about $26,000 last year, he said that, overall, it was a small amount which could be made up through such things as fundraisers, donations and sponsorships.
Many Y members are angry about the proposed closure.
"I'm the petition starter for the special board meeting. Every single person we asked are quite upset and some are livid about it," Brehm claimed.
It took less than a day to get the 75 to 100 signatures, with many Y members personally tracking him down.
"I stopped collecting signatures when I had 75 to 100 because I only needed 25. I could have collected hundreds if I kept at it," he claimed.
Finding answers to his questions about what was happening was difficult with staff not giving answers.
"The staff were told to deflect questions. It was a feeling of don't ask questions," he claimed.
Despite his concerns, he said he could understand if the closure decision has been made because "of something like asbestos everywhere in the building." But he claimed he could not get answers to his questions.
When told documents stated it would cost close to $3 million to repair the Y building he questioned if that amount was actually needed and whether or not it was accurate. And if it was, had the board really considered the costs? The money, if needed, could be made up in a small fee increase.
"Three million sounds scary but four dollars a month per membership is not that scary."
Regarding documents marked CONFIDENTIAL, prepared by Savaria Public Relations, from Regina, and provided to MJ Independent, Brehm stated "the decision has been made (to cease operations at Fairford Street) and they're being misleading. And this is damage control. Why can't you be truthful in this? That I find concerning to me."
The documents were prepared for only select senior staff, as well as the Y's board. Brehm was not the source of the documents. MJ Independent received the documents unsolicited from a source who wishes to remain anonymous.
Asked if the mention of an annual general meeting and board nominations meant the group was going to put members on or attempt to take over the Board, Brehm politely declined comment.
He did want to note one fact, with 8.5 percent of Moose Jaw residents listed as Y members, the club was clearly important here. The national average for most Canadian cities is three percent.
As part of that June 25th meeting YMCA Canada will be in attendance to monitor it, Brehm claimed.
Reached by telephone and email YMCA has referred all comments on the closure back to Moose Jaw YMCA CEO Jeff Fox.
MJ Independent sent a series of questions to Moose Jaw YMCA CEO Jeff Fox but he declined to answer any specific questions or concerns raised by Brehm, other Y members or stakeholders in preparing this report.
"It is important that our Stakeholders and Members receive accurate information directly from myself and the Board of Directors, rather than hearing speculation and rumours from the media," Fox wrote. You can read Fox's full statement at the bottom.
If the Y does decide to cease operations, it should be noted the facility is leased from the City and would revert to them.
We will do our best to keep you updated as this story develops.
EDITORIAL NOTE - In keeping with our commitment to freedom of speech and to covering stories to the best of our ability, MJ Independent welcomes comment from the CEO, the Board, the staff, Y members, stakeholders and all others into this issue which is so important to our community.
We encourage you to read ours and other reports, ask your own questions on this or any other issue. It's not our job to hold others accountable - we simply report the news to the best of our ability, on a limited budget. Holding any group, politician or others accountable is the job of the reader.
Full statement From Jeff Fox, CEO of YMCA Moose Jaw:
"As announced on June 3rd, the YMCA of Moose Jaw has called a Special Meeting of Members for June 25, 2018. It is important that our Stakeholders and Members receive accurate information directly from myself and the Board of Directors, rather than hearing speculation and rumors from the media. And that is exactly what we look forward to doing on June 25th. It would not be beneficial to our stakeholders or members if information is shared publicly before we have met with them.
The YMCA of Moose Jaw has been a pillar of this community for 113 years, and we look forward to continuing that tradition for decades to come.
All of your questions will be answered at the June 25th meeting. If you have any further questions after that meeting, I would be happy to meet with you in person to do an interview. I am on Heartland At Noon on the 26th as well."