YMCA Leaders Hold Contentious Town Hall

Members and YMCA leaders squared off over the proposed Philadelphia/Freedom Valley YMCA merger.

Board members and YMCA leadership held a town hall at the Spring Valley YMCA on Monday night to discuss the proposed merger between Freedom Valley YMCAs and Philadephia YMCAs. 

Freedom Valley's chief volunteer officer Sanford Lipstein started off the meeting by telling the approximately 200 members in attendance that the board hasn't done a very good job of getting information out to the members regarding the merger. 

Lipstein gave a presentation on what the merger will and will not mean for the membership. 

Lipstein said that there will be no reciprocity for use of the outdoor pools at Freedom Valley's branches, nor will Philadelphia members be allowed to sign up for fitness classes. Freedom Valley members will not be allowed to register for free classes at Philadelphia branches (they will be able to attend paid classes).  

The benefits, Lipstein said, include better risk management, more purchasing power for the merged YMCAs in insurance and supply buying, and a larger presence among the national YMCA's policy-making team. 

Once the meeting was opened up for a question and answer period, the mood turned occasionally hostile. 

Several members of the audience complained that they are being required to attend a vote, which is scheduled for 7pm Thursday evening at Chadwick's Restaurant in Audubon.

Lipstein said that Pennsylvania state law governing non-profit organizations required the vote to be in person and that a majority of the votes cast by those who attend will decide whether the merger passes or fails. 

"If you wish to vote, find a way to get there," Lipstein told the audience.

Multiple attendees said they are concerned about the validity of votes and feel that the YMCA is trying to "pull one over" on the membership. 

Lipstein said that everyone will be asked to sign in and that it's likely the vote will be done by ballot. If the vote is done by ballot, Lipstein said, people voting will be required to provide their name and address so that their membership can be verified. 

One audience member asked if the YMCA would refund membership fees for members who aren't happy with the merger.

Lipstein said that post-merger, if someone isn't happy and has paid in advance, they could request a refund of their unused membership time. 

At several points during the question-and-answer session, the discussion threatened to turn into a shouting match. 

A few audience members said they don't like how fast the merger is happening and felt that the vote should be delayed, but Lipstein refused to consider delaying. 

One unhappy audience member said he was concerned the management was "hiding information."

"We can't see how you got here," he said. 

Lipstein did say that the merger has to pass in both regions. Philadelphia's membership is also voting on Thursday at the YMCA office in Center City. 

"Both sides have to agree," Lipstein said. 

nick pine November 14, 2012 at 08:30 PM
CORPORATIONS AND UNINCORPORATED ASSOCIATIONS PA Title 15 Subchapter C. Merger, Consolidation and Sale of Assets § 5923. Notice of meeting of members. (a) General rule.--Written notice of the meeting of members that will act on the proposed plan shall be given to each member of record, whether or not entitled to vote thereon, of each domestic nonprofit corporation that is a party to the merger or consolidation. There shall be included in, or enclosed with, the notice a copy of the proposed plan or a summary thereof. The notice shall state that a copy of the bylaws of the surviving or new corporation will be furnished to any member on request and without cost. [Did we see this?] (b) Cross reference.--See Subchapter A of Chapter 57 (relating to notice and meetings generally). (June 22, 2001, P.L.418, No.34, eff. 60 days) § 5924. Adoption of plan. (a) General rule.--The plan of merger or consolidation shall be adopted upon receiving the affirmative vote of the members present entitled to cast at least a majority of the votes which all members present are entitled to cast thereon of each of the merging or consolidating domestic corporations, and if any class of members is entitled to vote thereon as a class, the affirmative vote of the members present of such class entitled to cast at least a majority of the votes which all members present of such class are entitled to cast theren.
Tom November 14, 2012 at 09:27 PM
I am a member of the Freedom Valley board of Directors and I have served on Y boards since 1984. Unlike "for profit" companies the board members do not get paid for their service and they do not own any shares of the Y. The only reason the members of the board serve is to make sure they are doing the best job they can for members and especially needy families who can't afford the Y. Most board members are Y members with families who use the Y. We want the best service we can have for ourselves and our families. The executive director is compensated based on national YMCA guidelines. He is not overpaid in any way. He has built a Y for the last 26 years that is among the top 10 Y's in the country as far as financial stability. Information has been provided to members on the Y's web site ... by handouts at every branch ... and in town hall meetings. We are not hiding anything and we are very proud of the opportunity we have developed through our discussion with the Philly Y. The merger will allow us to raise more funds for our community because each board member will have an expanded list of contacts and friends to approach that will live within the expanded geographic limits of our new Y. We will be able to benefit from contributions from corporations that only like to donate to large charities that are associated with large metropolitan areas. To our members it will insure that we will be able to continue to provide great services and facilities indefinitely.
Tom November 14, 2012 at 09:37 PM
Buck ... I don't know where you are getting information that the CEO's are overpaid. If they were working for "For-Profit" companies they would be making significantly more. I have been on the YMCA board since 1984. The compensation of the CEO is set based on National guidelines. I am one of three people who set the CEOs compensation. It is totally justifiable. Since the Freedom Valley Y is considered one of the 10 best managed Ys in the country our CEO could easily expect more. There is nothing anyone is going to say to change your mind. This merger will give us a significant opportunity to meet the mission of the Y. In addition providing great services to our members who can afford our fees we pride ourselves in providing over $2 million dollars a year to needy people and families. We will be able to raise even more charitable contributions with the merge. Large corporations like Comcast will not donate the Freedom Valley but they will once we merge with Philly. There is not a single down side to this merger.
Tom November 14, 2012 at 09:45 PM
Greg ... I am a member of the Freedom Valley board. It is not at all about shifting money from us to Philly or from Philly to us. Neither of us NEEDS to merge. It is a fantastic opportunity to insure that the financial stability we enjoy continues indefinitely. When we decided to invest in building the SV branch I am sure there were many members of Phoenixville that wanted us to invest our funds and fund raising efforts in their branch ... why did we invest in SV? Because it allowed us to provide our services to many more people and it actually helped our Phoenixville branches because the banks were able to lend us the funds to expand Phoenixville because they see how well we managed the SV project. Every one wins with properly managed growth. Once an organization stops growing ... it starts dying.
Laura E Berooks December 01, 2012 at 09:14 PM
what about premier plus members out of Bay Shore Long Island?? Got this membership for a wedding gift and I am disabled and need to swim , whirlpool n sauna. Any suggestions please....


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