Winston Lake protest; YMCA $400,000 in debt

Winston Lake protest; YMCA $400,000 in debt
April 14
00:00 2016
Photos by Tevin Stinson
Longtime Winston Lake member and volunteer Al Jabbar voices his frustration with the executive board during a meeting to discuss the future of the YMCA located on Waterworks Road.

Members voice frustrations with changes in operation and lack of transparency 



The Winston Lake Family YMCA, which has served the African-American community for more than 90 years, is slated for some major changes this year, including changes in staff and closing an entire wing of the facility, and the community is outraged.

Here’s what we know: Winston Lake Family YMCA’s roots date back to 1924 when a branch opened on Depot Street to serve African-Americans in the city before moving to its current location in 1985. Once arguably the city’s most well-known branch, in recent years Winston Lake has seen a decline in participation and membership. The branch has also seen some of its most popular pro-grams simply go away because of lack of funding, such as daycare, summer camp, and Silver Sneakers.

As a result, rumors started to circulate amongst residents that the branch would be closing its doors for good. Last week, YMCA of Northwest NC executive board members notified members and staff at Winston Lake that the branch would not be closing. However, board members are looking to close the entire portion of the building where the pool is located, cut hours, and transfer a number of current staff members. According to Senior Vice-President and COO Darryl Head, the changes would help Winston Lake overcome a shortfall of $400,000. Head noted the Winston Lake facility also needs an additional $500,000 for repairs that have to be completed in the next five years.

During a meeting with more than 100 members on Friday, April 8, Head said, based on a study on building usage, the pool area and racket ball courts at Winston Lake were the least utilized.

“We have data that shows the entire back side is seeing very little usage,” he continued. “We do want to look at closing those spaces so that we can garner our savings.”

“A reduction in grants and fund-ing from United Way has led us to make similar changes at all 16 of our locations. A lot has changed.”

Head also mentioned that other branches in the area have seen a decline in membership as well. He did not mention what other branches would be changing, but did say other pools will be closing.

According to Head, the branch would not be considered an “Express Y” because members and guests would still have access to the gym. Express Y designations are given to branches that only house a wellness center.

For more than two hours, members voiced their frustrations about the changes and lack of communication. Al Jabbar, a longtime member of the branch, was visibly irate about the lack of transparency from the executive board. Jabbar stood up and asked how did the branch fall in such a financial hole without the members who have been coming there for years knowing.

“I want to see the five-year plan for Winston Lake,” he said. “This did not happen overnight. If we are $400,000 in debt, someone had to know something.

“It shows a lack of respect that the leadership has not come and talked to the people of this community,” Jabbar said.

Members raised questions on the reported pool usage as well. Many of the senior citizens in attendance said they go to the pool more than two or three times a week to participate in water therapy classes. Veronica Rousseau said the swimming pool is one of the main reasons she comes to Winston Lake.

“A lot of us are seniors and that pool is a big help for our health,” said Rousseau. “Don’t take our pool from us; we need our pool.”

Winston Lake advisory board members are expected to present the complaints on the changes during a board meeting this week. The advisory board is a group of ten residents selected to represent the views of each branch. Two members of the Winston Lake board are expected to be present during the meeting.

Advisory board member Marshall McDuffie said all of the complaints made by the members would be brought up during the board meeting.

“We represent the people of Winston Lake.” McDuffie said.

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