YMCA raises $103K

Published 9:14 pm Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Southside Virginia Family YMCA has exceeded its $100,000 fundraising goal as part of a campaign in which 100 people, businesses or groups donated $1,000.

According to YMCA Treasurer Brad Watson, $103,000 had been raised as of Tuesday morning.

Brad Watson

Brad Watson

Watson, along with YMCA Board Chairman Roma Mo ris, said the success of the campaign shows there’s broad support in the community for the Y, on Commerce Road off of U.S. 15 South.

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“You might see one or two letters in the paper that don’t support things like this,” Watson said. “(County) supervisors might hear from one or two people. But, here’s 100 people who do, and, to the point of giving $1,000 (each).”

The successful campaign comes after the YMCA reported in December it was struggling “month-to-month” with bills, payroll and the existing debt load. During the same month, Prince Edward County supervisors took no action on a request from the Y to co- sign a note to refinance about $2 million of debt and to lower its existing loan interest rate of 6.95 percent.

“We also have gotten our bills current,” Watson said, adding that when new board members were put in place, they found outstanding bills they didn’t know were due. “And when this new board got into place, the first thing we did was to make sure we paid off everybody we owed.”

Morris conceded that some people felt “kind of low” about the Y.

Roma Morris

Roma Morris

“What we found when we were campaigning for funds is … enthusiasm in the community, that, ‘Hey, yes, we do love our Y. We want to give. We want to make it good,’” Morris said. “They like what’s there. They like the leadership that’s there now at the Y. And it was actually kind of fun once we got into it in talking to people in the community.”

Morris said the donated funds were earmarked for improve- ments to the building, including repairing the

pool, which has been plagued with problems for about two-and-a-half years. Watson said the pool has been drained, cleaned and repaired, and lights have been repaired or replaced.

It cost about $65,000 to make the repairs, he said. Watson also said donated money is being used to repaint the Y’s interior, some of which has already taken place.

Watson said the Y continues to pay on the $2.1 million mortgage, stating the board hasn’t missed or been late with any payments. He also said the Y has no outstanding bills, aside from the mortgage note and
a $50,000 loan from the county board of supervisors.

Supervisors recently said they would not forgive the loan. Watson said the Y would repay the loan, which comes up in a year, “if necessary.”

He also said member- ship is down, but rising again.

“The pool was a major factor in a lot of members leaving,” Watson said. “And that’s being fixed, is bringing some people back. It’s going to take a little while. It didn’t get down in a day and it won’t get back in a day.”

Morris said membership is “stabilizing some” now, while Watson said membership recruitment strategies are being developed. They both said the Y has reached an agreement in principle and is working finalize an agreement with the Lynchburg YMCA to come to Farmville and serve as its management team on a short-term basis and help develop a strategy.

“We already partner with them,” Morris said. “They help us with our bookkeeping … we al- ready partner with them on that piece of it.”

Watson emphasized the Lynchburg Y is not taking over the one in Farmville.

The pool’s reopening means the YMCA Community Swim Team is being reconstituted and second-grade students from Cumberland, Prince Edward and Buckingham counties can participate in the Y’s program of teaching every second grader in how to swim.

The YMCA also has several programs and partnerships in place, including ones with Centra, LiveStrong and a Silver Sneakers program for the elderly. Watson said current YMCA CEO Ben Sysko, who is the Y’s former wellness director, did a “good job” in creat- ing the programs.

“He has not been in this situation before. None of us on the board have been in this situa- tion. I’m not saying it’s
a dire situation, but one where things had gone down and need(ed) to be brought back up. And I think that we are in very good shape in our physi- cal plant,” Watson said.

He said the Y had not done a good job of raising its own money for the past eight years, but said that has now changed.

“There were unfortu- nate circumstances that happened, too,” Morris said, saying when the Y was built, pledges were made and some never came through, then the situation was com- pounded by issues with the pool and the 2008 recession.

Watson said every Realtor he asked to give money to this year’s campaign did so.

“And it became appar- ent to me very quickly why,” he said. “It’s be- cause whenever they’re showing somebody from out of town our commu- nity, they show them the YMCA. It’s very impor- tant.”

He also said the YMCA serves everyone, not just the wealthy and not just people without money.

“When you are there, nobody knows whether you have a lot of money or no money. Nobody cares what your race, religion (or) creed is. All they care about is that you’re there. The Y wants to help people,” Watson said.