South Chicago YMCA closing doors after 90 years

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The South Chicago YMCA is closing its doors after serving the neighborhood near 91st and Commercial for more than 90 years.

Michael Kelly has been a member for 32 years. Summer Whighham grew up nearby and remembers taking swimming lessons here as a child.

"I'm actually disappointed, it is very sad, there are really no gyms in this community," Whigham said.

It is a community that has seen a loss in population and a high unemployment rate. In the past four years, YMCA membership has declined by 35 percent.

"We've had a decline in our participation, our main programs we offer early education there has been a huge decline, which has led to us partially closing doors," said Keisha Abel, member experience director at the South Chicago YMCA.

With toys and books piled up to go, the Y's Head Start program has already shut down. In addition, the old building needs millions of dollars in renovations - something member Kay Wilson was hoping for, but will not happen.

"That means I have to go to a further location and go to the facility on Stony Island," Wilson said. "This is a very convenient location, maybe like 10 minutes from my house."

Part of the building will remain senior housing and some of the old Head Start rooms will be used for a growing youth safety and violence prevention program.

"We want to make sure we are putting out resources where we can see an impact," Abel said.
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