Winston Lake saga continues

President and CEO of the YMCA of Northwest NC Curt Hazelbaker discusses the future of Winston Lake with members during a meeting held on Wednesday, April 27.

Winston Lake saga continues
May 05
06:35 2016

Photo by Tevin Stinson



The YMCA of Northwest North Carolina is looking for partners to help run the Winston Lake branch on Waterworks Road that serves those who live in the East Winston community.

According to President and Chief Executive Officer Curt Hazelbaker, board members have had discussions with a number of non-profit organizations and representatives with the city to help with the overall finances of the branch.

Last month The Chronicle broke news that board members were looking to close the entire portion of the building where the pool is located, cut hours and transfer staff members. The proposed changes are expected to help Winston Lake overcome a yearly shortfall of $400,000.

Senior Vice-President and COO Darryl Head also noted the branch needs an additional $500,000 for repairs that have to be completed in the next five years.

While hours’ changes and staff changes will be implemented May 21, the pool will remain open while board members seek partners to help with the upkeep. Partnership discussions began after a number of members said they wanted the pool to stay and the city to step in.

Hazelbaker said if the association agrees with a partnership with the city, the branch would be run similar to recreation centers in the area. He also assured members that although the pool may close, the branch would not be closing.

“The Winston Lake branch will not be closing,” he said. “We are doing everything we can to keep a presence in the East Winston community.”

During a recent meeting with members, Hazelbaker discussed the financial reasons that led to the proposed changes at the Winston Lake branch. According to Hazelbaker, the association has los t $389,000 in 2015. The loss is a combination of membership rates and program revenue at all branches in the system.

The budgeted loss for 2016 is $696,000. Hazelbaker said $389,000 of the loss is Winston Lake alone. While a number of Ys in the system have seen a decline in income, Winston Lake has seen an annual loss of more than $350,000 for five years in a row.

Lack of participation in a number of programs over the years has led to a number of programs being removed from the branch which is believed to be the reason for the loss at Winston Lake. Since 2011 more than five programs have left the branch, including the after-school program, summer camp program and others.

“That played a big part in the proposed changes,” he said. “The current way we operate is not sustainable.”

Hazelbaker noted that board members usually don’t make financial information public, but following the backlash from members, he felt the need to make the information available to the public.

“This isn’t information that we usually share with our members,” he said. “We wanted to make sure the members here at Winston Lake understand how and why we decided to make these changes.”

While a number of members applauded Hazelbaker and other board members for their transparency, a number of members urged the board to consider the community that the branch serves. Members mentioned that Winston Lake is different from any other branch in the system because of the number of minorities that use the facility.

Cynthia Curtis said when making plans for the future of Winston Lake, the diversity of the members should be taken into account.

“As they are contemplating the future of Winston Lake, they have to take into the consideration of the diversity that exists here,” said Curtis. “This branch is unlike any other and should be treated as such.”

Winston Lake branch’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. Many of the current members say the friendships they made at the original branch on Depot Street have grown and carried over to Winston Lake.

Tarshalla Sitton said although she uses a number of different branches across the city, Winston Lake is different because of the relationships the members have built over the years.

“Winston Lake has a different feel than any other YMCA in this system,” said Sitton. “It’s like a family here.

“If they continue to take away programs and things like the pool, I fear that feeling may leave as well. This branch should remain the way it is.”

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