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Freedom Valley, Philadelphia YMCAs May Merge

A town hall meeting on the merger is scheduled for Monday evening.

A merger is in the works between the Philadelphia Area YMCA and the Freedom Valley YMCA, however, not everyone is pleased about the prospect or the process. 

Both YMCA boards have voted to approve the merger and members recently received letters explaining the deal and how members can vote.

The Y held a town hall meeting on Nov. 12, at the Spring Valley YMCA on Linfield-Trappe Road in Limerick. The town hall came in advance of the vote, which is scheduled to happen at Chadwick's Restaurant in Audubon on Thursday, Nov. 15 at 7 p.m.

Philadelphia Area YMCA CEO John Flynn told Patch in a phone interview that the merger came about as the two organizations began working more closely together.

"We realized that we could be a stronger organization if we combined resources," Flynn said. 

Flynn said that the merger will expand the services that the YMCA is able to offer members in both regions and hopefully will allow the YMCA to add facilities in areas that don't currently have them, such as King of Prussia and Conshohocken. 

According to Flynn, the merger will not affect the cost of joining the YMCA.

"Membership rates will not change and actually should be more stable over time due to the larger organization," Flynn told Patch.

Several YMCA members have told Patch that they do not approve of the merger and don't feel it will benefit them.

Member Deana Cortino said in an e-mail that she has multiple concerns, including overcrowding of the facilities.

"Our pool on any given day is crowded enough with our own members of the community," Cortino wrote. "The Philadelphia Y's do not have a pool, do we really think that they will not fight for rights to use our pool?"

Cortino said the fitness center and classes are also crowded a majority of the time and she is worried that allowing more members in will contribute to even more overcrowding.  

Additionally, Cortino said it seems like the merger is a done deal regardless of the vote and she feels that "the merger has been very behind the scenes, with not wanting the members to have a lot of information."

Member John Lightcap also expressed concerns about the vote. 

"I don't like how they're controlling the vote," Lightcap said. 

The YMCA has several pages on its website dedicated to explaining the effects of the merger and the process so far. 

During the town hall on Monday evening, several board members attended to answer questions. They were:

  • Jay Schaeffer, President & CEO, Freedom Valley YMCA
  • John Flynn, President & CEO, Philadelphia YMCA & Vicinity
  • Sandy Lipstein, Chairman of the Board of Directors, Freedom Valley YMCA

Should the membership approves the merger, it will be effective on Jan. 1, 2013.

Lionel Hutz November 12, 2012 at 09:36 PM
This sounds like a great idea if you are a full time employee of the YMCA. Should lead to more training opportunities, chances for career advancement, and possibly higher salaries. It also makes sense if there can be shared services such as a consolidated HR, payroll, and accounting though this could cost some people their jobs. However as a member I see no benefit. Will my rates decrease now that there is a larger population of members? I doubt it. I guess I could swing into the Havertown YMCA for a quick workout when I find myself in need while in Delco, which is pretty much never but hey it could be a benefit. I also find it underhanded that they announce a town hall the day of. I'm sure if there was more input from the membership or more time to discuss this would get shot down pretty quickly. I'll be sure to show up on the 15th and vote no.
Peter C. Brown November 13, 2012 at 03:16 AM
Are there examples of other YMCAs who have done the same thing? What was the outcome? How do the members of our local YMCA feel about it? It is an important and valuable community asset. Would it be more prudent to maintain our control over it all locally? Previous local experience with mergers and purchases of our hospitals and schools hasn't necessarily resulted in a better products and services, has it?
Ed Roper November 13, 2012 at 03:48 AM
I voted with my wallet, and cancelled my membership. They already lost me as a customer. Too pricey, and too crowded, mostly with other people's kids. I'm not paying $60 a month so I have to wait around for a 12 year old to get off of a weight lifting machine ( why kids are allowed to use weight machines is beyond me, but whatever.. ) or dodge little ones as they stumble in my way on the indoor track. I want a gym, not an overpriced daycare.
Jaxxon November 13, 2012 at 04:42 AM
First, I am not convinced that the reasons given for this merger, e.g., sharing best practices, can be done only if there is a merger. It seems like a merger is not necessary for this, or for any of the other reasons stated for the merger. Additionally, given both institutions are financially healthy also means the merger is not necessary, and, further to this point, I have yet to hear (or read) a reason that /necessitates/ a merger. Moreover, the haste with which this is being done is suspicious, and the Q&A answer that it is unlikely that the merger will not happen indicates that it will happen regardless of the membership's will, is terribly problematic.
Jaxxon November 13, 2012 at 04:46 AM
Ed, I agree that Y membership really isn't a great deal for a single person or a couple, and I believe that's the case with or without the merger. Membership is, however, a pretty good deal for families. Of course, this isn't a comment on the effects of the merger on any of those memberships.
Paul O'Leary November 13, 2012 at 06:52 PM
There is definitely something a bit suspect regarding the speed of this merger. I have no idea if this is good or bad. Save me money = good. Don't save me money = bad. Too simple?
George November 13, 2012 at 10:18 PM
How timely to come across this article one day after I stopped in at the YMCA in Phoenixville to inquire about membership! I was interested until I questioned the purpose of the initiation fee. I was told it would be used fund free memberships for those unable to pay. So . . . now gym membership is a right along with food, clothing and shelter? If you can't afford to join, walk around the block, use the stairs, or use your free phone to call for someone else to pay your bills. My biggest regret? I belonged to the YMCA once before and I did not know that my initiation fee was used in this way. After this past Tuesday, charity begins at home. This bank is closed.
Ed Roper November 13, 2012 at 10:22 PM
That's an incredibly petty and sad comment. Can't even begin to try to argue with you...
George November 14, 2012 at 10:47 PM
What is incredibly sad is people like Ed trying to make me feel guilty about wanting others to work as hard as I do to EARN my money, not have it handed to them with the sense that they are entitled to it.
SS November 14, 2012 at 11:02 PM
I'm so with you George. I contribute to everything. I help out at school, community, wherever I can. Not there. Sorry. They're supposed to be the charity that takes care of the ones that can't afford it. Not me
E McCann November 15, 2012 at 01:22 AM
Wow. I'm with you Ed. I guess people don't know what the Y stands for.
George November 16, 2012 at 02:20 AM
The "Y" Ed? Really? Wow. The "Y" stands for Young. The "M" is for Men & the "A" is for Association. I think you mean the "C" as in Christian and the Christian thing to do is to teach people to be responsible providers for themselves and their families. Teaching them the difference between "need" and "want" is another good lesson.

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