(This is Part 4 of a series of articles questioning the tax exempt status of the YMCA.)
When you discuss the YMCA, you get plenty of feedback from community members. The talking points are the Y helps kids and poor people who cannot afford memberships. One of the Y’s members in Yorktown was quick to point out that the Y uses their profits to help the poor. When asked how many free memberships the Y has handed out to poor members in Yorktown, he referred us to the Downtown branch. It’s called “talking points” which refers to common parroted lines used over and over again lacking any real substance.
These talking points have been used for years to keep people from asking why the YMCA receives tax exemption from health club memberships. Another classic defense is their camp sends many disadvantaged kids from Delaware County to Camp Crosley to experience the great outdoors. However, the number of kids who can afford to go are minimal, and it barely makes an impact on Delaware County youth.
The facts are that the Muncie Family YMCA is a fitness facility like Anytime Fitness, Lifetime Fitness, and Cardinal Fitness. There is no difference. They are in the business to make money from buying equipment, setting it up in their facilities, and then selling memberships to people who want to use it. Not sure about Anytime Fitness, but the CEO of the Muncie Family YMCA makes $125,000 in annual salary plus benefits and a substantial benefit package, so it’s a lucrative business.
Even though they abandoned their affiliation with the Christian heritage last year to become more inclusive, when asked, their executive board members quickly brought up their Christian values.
However, a member of the YMCA saw the newly hired Cathy Clark, CEO from Ohio, remove the painting of Jesus Christ that stood over the entrance in the downtown foyer, and threw it into the dumpster behind the downtown branch. An employee had retrieved the painting and hid it behind his desk by the basketball court. He was ashamed for her action, and said he hid it, to keep from being fired for retrieving it.
Later in her tenure, the same CEO, was challenged for her child watch practices at the downtown YMCA branch, and pointed out that their policies were violating both corporate YMCA guidelines, and state recommendations. What was the response of Ms. Clark, and her board of directors? Ban the member and his entire family from using the Muncie Family YMCA. An entire board of community members supported that decision based on two peoples recommendation.
Did they modify their child watch practices? No. They banned the member’s family for causing problems. How does that support Christian values, or any kind of corporate ethics?
Even though they receive operating funds from a $5 million dollar endowment, the YMCA leadership made no effort to assist the community centers at Buley or Ross. As a community, we grant their tax exemption so they can pursue health and wellness and support our residents. Instead, they have located branches in affluent areas, avoid helping our depressed areas that need it most, and ban members for challenging unsafe and unprotected child watch areas.