After 114 Years YMCA Announces Windup of Operations

After exhausting every avenue to save it, it is now official after 114 years of operation the YMCA of Moose Jaw is winding up its operations.

In a meeting for members and the community on Tuesday evening YMCA board chair Christine Boyczuk said the board decided unanimously to orderly wind up the local YMCA as it was teetering on the verge of insolvency (bankruptcy).

It was a sign of board solidarity which was broken part way through the meeting as board member Jeremy Brehm said he could not be party to it as the Y was more than money for the community.

The YMCA’s flagship Fairford Street (Crescent Park) location will close on June 30th.

The YMCA’s flagship Fairford Street (Crescent Park) location will close on June 30th.

As reported earlier the YMCA will be closing not only it’s flagship Fairford Street location but additionally the Athabasca Health and Fitness Centre located in the basement of the Moose Jaw Co-op shopping centre. The closures take effect June 30, 2019.

The child care services will continue to operate and subject to the finalization of definitive agreements effective July 2, 2019 will be operated by the YMCA of Regina. There will be no job losses or increases at the present time due to the move.

The YMCA of Moose Jaw is the largest provider of licensed child care in Moose Jaw with five locations and just under 250 child care spaces. 

There is on-going work with other groups in the community to continue with the programs in the community.

Boyczuk said the reason for winding down the Y included declining membership numbers, increased expenses as well as increased capital demand. The meeting was told the Y has just under 2500 members.

Christine Boyczuk (left) and Diana Deakin-Thomas

Christine Boyczuk (left) and Diana Deakin-Thomas

About the controversy surrounding the announcement of the closure of the flagship Fairford Street (Crescent Park) location in June 2018 and the subsequent slate of new board members elected to try and save it she said the “pause was helpful.”

“There is no fault to be had on what had to be done…this was not only difficult but very painful.”

“We left no stone unturned to find an alternative...the focus has been and continues to keep as many programs and services as possible and (as many jobs as possible),” Boyczuk stated, adding “the YMCA of Regina will also support Moose Jaw by supporting some of our community programs.”

The YMCA’s Athabasca Fitness Centre (Co-op) will close but there are discussions with parties interested in the lease

The YMCA’s Athabasca Fitness Centre (Co-op) will close but there are discussions with parties interested in the lease

A list of the community programs will be listed on the YMCA of Moose Jaw's web-site.

Kevin Muir, senior VP federation development network for YMCA Canada, said it was not just one thing which caused the YMCA of Moose Jaw to wind up its operations.

Muir said YMCA Canada supports the Y in Moose Jaw and would be looking at regional operational model which will continue the Y's presence in Moose Jaw.

“YMCA Canada has provided significant support to the YMCA of Moose Jaw and will continue to do so.”

Boyczuk said she wanted to thank the community who rallied around the Y during the challenging times it faced.

“We are very lucky to continue child care services on the regional model,” she said.

The meeting was then opened up to a highly emotional question period from the floor which saw one Y board member, Jeremy Brehm, giving an emotional speech before leaving where the board was at the front and sitting at the back of the auditorium.

Jeremy Brehm gave a prepared emotional speech then moved to the back of the auditorium

Jeremy Brehm gave a prepared emotional speech then moved to the back of the auditorium

One of the questions from the floor was about the option of whether Moose Jaw could be a satellite to Regina.

Boyczuk said it was an option discussed over the past year and a half.

“They want to take over anything viable and not the risk and of course our childcare is viable.”

Clive Tolley, who was outspoken in his support at the 2018 special meeting, asked “why has there not been an announcement about a major fundraising for that building (Fairford Street location)? I just do not understand. 

Interim CEO Diana Deakin-Thomas said it was all about the actual financial shape of the local Y.

“The unfortunate thing is we just did not have the time,” Deakin-Thomas said, adding “we have to go through the orderly dissolution as we are running out of money.”

Dave Kelly, who was also outspoken at the June 2018 special meeting, questioned whether the board elected to save the Fairford location had reached beyond themselves to find a solution.

Kelly said there was a “groundswell of community support” and the board had “blocked off communication.”

Board member Errol Fonger replied the board had in fact reached out to quite a few groups for help but could not for professional reasons say who.

Kelly continued asking “so you are telling me you did not get any bridge financing?”

Boyczuk replied the Y had only 19 donors and they could not get bridge financing.

“What I am hearing from the board is in defense of what you did. Not how you got where you are...and you told us too late,” Kelly responded, adding “I’m hoping to hear we are sorry and could have done better but we are not hearing that.”

Boyczuk responded the board did not have the time to do anything to correct the situation.

Kelly persisted claiming the Y's business plan was “a disaster long before this happened.”

About 20 minutes later board member Brehm would defect to the membership and say he “refused to be part of this...they are destroying this City.”

Former board member Heather Eby said there may have been a chance to save the YMCA if the previous board’s decision to close the Fairford Street location had been listened to.

“It was a difficult decision made a year ago…people could not believe the board of the day…I am sad,” Eby said, adding “nobody listened when we said this won’t happen…for everyone who said save Fairford it cost a lot.”

Anyone that knows me knows that I consider it my personal responsibility and lifelong duty to protect our children. I refuse to stand with the board and mislead the community. I refuse to stand with the board piece it attempts to absolve itself from all accountability, past and present I refuse to be a party to the endemic mismanagement and politics that are slowly destroying this great city from the inside out. I have nothing further to say on this.
— YMCA Board Member Jeremy Brehm

Later in the meeting Brehm, seated at the back of the auditorium, would ask questions about the finances.

“Is that truthful? If we had closed Fairford we would not be standing here tonight?…What did you base that information on? Answer it truthfully,” Brehm said from the floor.

In a confidential March 2017 Governance Review Report, obtained by MJ Independent, the strengths and weaknesses of the YMCA of Moose Jaw were laid out.

The report stated that in June 2016 the YMCA was “had reached the brink of insolvency.”

The confidential report also stated there was no accounting system in place so there was no statement of financial position. The report stated the number one priority was to get a clear understanding of the YMCA’s financial position.

The review also pointed out communication challenges between the board and CEO.

The review concluded - The YMCA of Moose Jaw is in crisis.

Read the review synopsis below.

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Despite the bad news Aaron Ruston said there needed to be a different view taken and not seek to blame others or point fingers but rather to look at the strong points, assess the situation and make the best of it.

Ruston spoke about the family atmosphere of the Athabasca Centre and what could be done to preserve it for the good of the community.

“What is left on the lease and what is needed to make it exciting once again?” he asked, adding “we want to know how we can give back to the community.”

“Right now I see a lot of testosterone and estrogen rising in the room…let’s find a solution and move on.”

Deakin-Thomas said given the financial position the organization had to be disolved.

“We don’t want to be in a position where we don’t have a YMCA presence at all.”

Asked about the Family Centres and the support they provide Deakin-Thomas said they are working to preserve them and their services as they were “absolutely important to us.”

Deakin-Thomas also said she was working with a couple of interested parties regarding the lease of the Athabasca (Co-op) Health and Wellness Centre.

Muir agreed the organization had to be wound up to save at least some of the programs.

“The reality is the financial position was so bad it was accelerating down too fast…we risk losing it all or make the courageous decision to save as much as we can,” Muir said.

Deakin-Thomas said time was crucial in order to save the family programs.

One atendee spoke about how the YMCA helped keep youth away from narcotics.

“Moose Jaw has a rampant drug problem and lots of teenagers (are at risk) and you are taking that (Athabasca Y location) away from them…we raise kids until they are six or seven and then what?” he asked.

Moving the child care operations to the YMCA of Regina drew questions and concerns about the lack of voice Moose Jaw would have as a result on the Regina board.

Deakin-Thomas said Moose Jaw would still have a strong voice due to the Y’s management structure where you did not have to go through several levels of management to be heard. She also stated how child care through the YMCA of Moose Jaw had scored high when assesed and she did not see it deterioating.

“As far as child care goes they are going to learn a lot from us,” she said.

A concern was raised about all profits from child care, which was early called viable, going to Regina and not to Moose Jaw to be used here.

There was some questioning about the ability to re-start the YMCA of Moose Jaw if there could be sufficient interest. It was said not possible at the present time due to the financial crisis but in the future it was possible.

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