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Consolidation of three Southside YMCAs put on hold

After months of discussion, the YMCA merger has been put on hold. Back in July, members of the South Boston-Halifax YMCA had an opportunity to cast their votes on the merger of the Hamilton Boulevard YMCA with the two in Mecklenburg County during a town hall meeting held at the South Boston Y.

But on Tuesday, efforts to consolidate the three YMCAs, including the ones located in South Boston-Halifax, Chase City and Clarksville, were halted.

According to South Boston/Halifax County YMCA CEO Marcus Hargrave, speaking on behalf of the consolidation task force comprised of five volunteers, more time is necessary before moving forward with the consolidation of the Halifax County and Mecklenburg County YMCAs. 

The task force consisted of F. Miller Ruff, chief volunteer officer for the Mecklenburg Y; Frank Lee, chief volunteer officer for the South Boston Halifax County Y; Doris Hester; Mark Thackston; and Phil Hammond.

“Our communities are too hesitant to engage until certain hurdles can be overcome,” said Hargrave.

Since being here in Southside Virginia, the current administration at the YMCA of South Boston/Halifax County has experienced numerous successes around youth development and community engagement, he said. 

The impact in Halifax County led to other communities asking the local Y to duplicate these services in South Hill, Clarksville and Chase City. 

Management contracts were entered into to provide administrative oversight and program implementation, the Y CEO explained.

At the Mecklenburg County YMCA, Hargrave said administration worked with the existing volunteers and staff to enable the Y to formulate a path forward to address the lack of accurate financial reporting, declining membership, absence of community support, lack of a financial assistance program and focus more on youth development. 

“The action plan executed included foreseen challenges such as the inability to meet staff payroll and the need for numerous civic group and government presentations to inform the community of the challenges faced by the YMCA,” Hargrave said. 

“Fortunately, the YMCA of South Boston/Halifax County was able to financially support the Mecklenburg County YMCA during these turbulent times and by designating more staff hours than previously discussed,” he said.

Presently, the Mecklenburg County YMCA is a healthy organization, thanks in part to the work of numerous staff and volunteers. All of the work done by these volunteers, board members, staff and YUSA resources point toward consolidating as the best solution for sustaining these organizations, said Hargrave.  

“Now, even after unprecedented successes at the Mecklenburg County YMCA, we are left with a divisive situation threatening key relationships in both counties. It’s a very odd place to be considering both have benefited from this collaboration, and the majority of individuals want to see this relationship deepen,” he added.

For nearly a year, the board members of the YMCAs in South Boston, Chase City and Clarksville have “looked at ways to strengthen the program that they already have,” according to Hargrave. 

 “The YMCA is dedicated to impacting youth, social response and proud to open its doors to anybody and plans to sustain for years to come,” he added.

The YMCA focuses on increasing youth development and practices a family wellness initiative. 

Earlier this summer, Hargrave said the Y had worked together to coordinate efforts and share resources to expand on staff’s existing roles in order to provide the community with more opportunities. 

Currently, members of the YMCA have the option of purchasing a dual membership; which allows them to use all three locations. The board members were looking into doing away with this dual membership. 

The general membership fee would allow the same benefits as a dual membership, and the membership price, if consolidated, had been scheduled to remain the same, according to Hargrave. 

In South Boston, a family membership costs $46 a month, and an adult membership costs $31 a month. 

Family membership costs $35 per month, and adult membership costs $25 in Clarksville. 

However, Hargrave said Tuesday the controversy surrounding the proposed merger has made him question whether it is worth it. “Should the minority overrule the majority? Should the majority determine the outcome and deal with the potential fallout?” he asked.

Hargrave maintains the most important thing is for the YMCAs to remain a key asset in both communities now and in the future. 

“For this reason, we believe it is in the best interest of the members of the YMCA to revisit the consolidation process at a later time,” explained Hargrave.  

In moving forward, the Y CEO said the Mecklenburg County YMCA must decide whether it wants to remain a YMCA or be a community center, hire a CEO themselves, or request the services of the YMCA of the USA for a CEO search process. 

But as of Dec. 31, the YMCA of South Boston/Halifax County will no longer be able to provide consultation services, he said.

“Both YMCA boards of directors wish each other well. The consolidation process revealed information that will be helpful to both. Utilizing this information will hopefully assist in programs designed for youth development, healthy living and social responsibility,” Hargrave added.

“A lot of time, effort and prayer got us to this point…we hope it will be reconsidered in the future,” he concluded.

Although no timetable has been set on when to readdress the consolidation, Hargrave said he believes that as time passes, they will be able to move forward.