Local Fundraising Will Save the Sarasota Family YMCA's Struggling Fitness Centers

Sarasota Family YMCA closure
(Photo courtesy Sarasota Family YMCA.) On July 23, the Sarasota Family YMCA announced it would permanently close its two fitness centers on Sept. 13, after several years of dwindling memberships and unsuccessful cost-saving measures. On Aug. 21, the Y announced it had garnered the support to call off the closures.

The board of the Sarasota Family YMCA, Sarasota, Florida, has agreed in principle to accept an offer by multiple local groups to help keep the Y's two fitness centers open past Sept. 13, the date on which both were slated to close due to financial struggles.

As part of the revitalization effort, the fitness centers will also spin off from the Sarasota Family YMCA and begin operating as The Sarasota Y. An interim president and transitional board have already been named for the new organization, according to a media release by the Y.

“We are overwhelmed by the level of commitment and partnership witnessed over the past few days,” Michele Grimes, chair of the Sarasota Family YMCA, said in the release. “We are all coming together to retain this invaluable community asset in an effort to place it on a solid footing for it to thrive again.”

In recent months, dual-language school Dreamers Academy, not-for-profit group Project Stoked and fundraising organization Save Our Y struck a collaborative partnership to help keep the Y's Evalyn Sadlier Jones branch and the Frank G. Berlin Sr. branch open past Sept. 13, when both facilities were scheduled to close due to ongoing membership and budgetary issues.

As of Aug. 26, Save Our Y had received $702,000 in pledges toward its short-term goal of raising $1 million by Sept. 13. The group's long-term goal is to raise $2.5 million by June 30, 2020.

The funds will help improve the existing facilities and retain employees, 341 of which were anticipated to lose their jobs.

“We are thrilled to be investing in a project with such a high social return,” Project Stoked founder Anya Adams said in the release. “As a firm, we are committed to creating positive social impact and, as members of the Sarasota Y, when we heard about the closure, we immediately jumped in. Seldom do we come across a project that not only fits our investment criteria but also has a direct impact on our own family’s well-being.”

The newly dubbed Sarasota Y has named Jim Purdy, former Sarasota Family YMCA COO, as its interim president. Adams, along with Dreamers Academy Chair Thomas Chaffee and others close to the project, have been named to the organization’s transitional board.

More details will be announced in coming weeks about the organization’s revitalization and the future of the fitness centers, according to the release.

 “The City of Sarasota stands ready and willing to help facilitate the implementation of any agreement stemming from the continued negotiations to save our local YMCA,” Sarasota City Commissioner Hagen Brody said in the release. “That includes fast-tracking any permitting or zoning changes necessary and support any and all appropriate waivers allowable by law in order to keep this community asset viable.”

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