YMCA facilities close due to financial issues

October 3, 2012 (CHICAGO)

For some residents, YMCA's provide services they depend on. For them, the closure of the Austin Y could not have come at a worse time.

"YMCA's are safe havens and places of refuge for the community. To lose this in one of the biggest Chicago communities, that is a devastating blow," said Greater Chicago St. John Bible Church's Rev. Ira Acree.

The Austin YMCA is one of four recently closed, or about to close, in the Chicago area.

"A lot of the kids come here to play basketball," said Larry Musgrave of the Institute for People with Criminal Records. "There is a health facility, and that gets them off the street and into something healthy."

But Richard Malone, the head of the YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago, which also recently closed a facility in Grayslake, says, with only 175 paying members, the Austin Y could no longer afford to stay open

"We had roughly a tenth of the membership we have at our other Ys," said Malone. "And some days we had as few as five or six people in that YMCA."

Declining membership and escalating operating costs are also the reason behind the closing of YMCAs in Vernon Hills and Waukegan. Twenty-three-hundred people rely on their services, which includes daycare and after school programs.

"Heartbreaking for a lot of people, young and old, senior citizens, children come new for day care," said lifelong YMCA member Gary Munda. "It's a real hard situation for this community to hear."

But all may not be lost.

A renewed effort is under way to raise the $5 to $8 million they needed for them to operate into the future.

"We've been so overwhelmed by the support from the community, with everyone about what they can do to help, whether that's financially or otherwise," said Lake County Family YMCA's Hal Katz. "Together with the board, see what we can do embrace the help, and see if we can keep doors open."

As of right now, the YMCA in Waukegan and Vernon hills are slated to close October 31. The childcare programs will remain open through November to give parents more time to find alternatives.

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