Freedom Valley/Philly YMCA Merger Passes

A Thursday evening vote approved the joining of the two YMCA regions.

According to a source present at Thursday evening's vote, the proposed merger between the Freedom Valley YMCA and the Philadelphia YMCA passed by a margin of 56 votes. 

The merger was announced several weeks ago, and members have argued both for and against the merger ever since. 

Several members expressed concerns about the speed of the merger and about overcrowding. Members were also unhappy with the voting process, which required everyone who wanted to vote be present at a meeting on Thursday night.

Others praised the merger, saying that it could only benefit the organization. YMCA leadership also said it would save money by reducing insurance and supply costs.

The leadership of the two YMCAs held a town hall on Monday evening, November 12, at which some members were vocal about the process. 

Wednesday, an e-mail to members decried bigotry in a flyer that was left at the Phoenixville YMCA branch and sent to some members.

Tom November 16, 2012 at 10:54 PM
In the email that was sent to members about the flyer left at the Y branch it was pointed out that the author was not only warning against bus loads of inner-city Y Members coming to our branches but it also pointed out that a merger with the Main Line Y or Exton Y would be fine. The email sent to members did not specifically state their was racial bigotry (although it is very possible) but it was at a minimum culturally biased. The Y is here for people of all races, religions, income levels and cultures. The Freedom Valley Y certainly understands that the author of the flyer only represents a very few people who feel this way but it is imperative that we make it clear that the leadership of the Y does not tolerate this line of thinking and we don't want it used as scare tactics.
Tom November 16, 2012 at 11:02 PM
I am a member of the freedom Valley board and I made some comments below that might help explain the "big picture" and the reasons behind this merger. Please see below ...
RA November 16, 2012 at 11:02 PM
Considering that this flyer wasn't ever even seen by the overwhelming majority of the voting membership, it should be obvious that this was a shameful attempt to manipulate the vote by insinuating that anyone who didn't go along with the agenda was simply a bigot. For all the complaints about misinformation - there was an article in the Pottstown Mercury (Nov. 5) which stated: "Members of current Freedom Valley YMCA branches won’t be able to patronize the Philadelphia-area branches and vice versa, he said. Schaeffer noted that the merger of the Pottstown and Phoenixville YMCAs five years ago was “very, very positive,” and that “the same will be true here.” You would think that people who were so concerned about misinformation being spread would have made it a point to correct this obvious falsehood immediately. I personally hope this all works out, but I have NO respect for the shamefully manipulative tactics that were used to ramrod this idea - whose benefits were so obvious that no one even considered them until four months ago (3 months of which the membership was kept completely in the dark) - and then suddenly became a matter so urgent that there was no time to waste.
Pierre Le Fleche November 16, 2012 at 11:04 PM
Am I not mistaken- was it not the investment and vision of the Phoenixville YMCA BOARD that is responsible for the very existence of Spring Valley?? Was the SV Y not expanded last year by BOARD decision to make it the first class facility that it is? Because the Y is there for the community and not customized for you, you feel the need to denigrate it, and the outstanding efforts of the Board!
Tom November 16, 2012 at 11:21 PM
I am a member of the FV YMCA board and I posted some comments below to try to explain further why we want to merge with Philly. Most of the negative comments and concerns are about the short term effect that the merge will have on members. The REAL reason for the merger has little to do with the short term impact on members and almost everything to do with our ability to provide the same and better facilities and services to MORE people (especially the needy and challenged) and to areas that are not served by a Y now. We invested in the construction of Spring Valley and we will have similar facilities in Upper Perk and Audubon/Norristown soon. We will be able to continue to reach out to more and more people who need out services with this merger. Also ... by becoming one of the most financially stable Y's in the country we will be able to react much more effectively when a current branch runs into financial problems in the future. Please see further comments below.
John Q. Public November 17, 2012 at 12:20 AM
Suggesting those opposed to the merger might be bigots, racists, and "lies and hatred" was a great strategy! Few had the courage to go against those accusations, and risk public scorn and censure. It's been used many times before of course, but I never fail to marvel how the threat of being called, 'racist,' will make the staunchest idealist immediately change their minds. Great job!
1 November 17, 2012 at 01:13 AM
How many elections do you right wing nuts have to lose before realizing you are the problem? The majority does not agree with you. Period. End of story. From the Spring Valley YMCA to the White House, you are on the wrong side of history. Get a clue or get a passport and leave. It's really that simple.
RA November 17, 2012 at 01:15 AM
Gotta give them credit - they played us like a violin with that dramatic last minute appeal to our conscience. If I ever open up a used-car lot I know who I'll call on to act as a my closer!
Tom November 17, 2012 at 01:29 AM
John Q ... I posted some comments about this shortly after you posted your comment so you may want to check out the comments above. The Flyer used by an opponent to the merger was left on our information tables and it used our logo to make it appear it was from us. While we never claimed it was racially biased it was clearly culturally biased and meant to warn people about the problems with people from the "city" ... including theft. There have also been many, many absolute mis-statement of facts in emails, newspapers and verbally. Are you suggesting that it is not appropriate for us to address these attacks head-on? If these comments were just verbal between members that is one thing but when they attempt to distribute obviously false statements with inflammatory remarks on flyers with the Y's logo ... this had to be responded to. As a matter of interest ... do you think it was an appropriate tactic for those opposing the merger to distribute anything ... even if it were truthful ... on documents with our logo???
John Q. Public November 17, 2012 at 01:33 AM
The Race Card! Never leave home without it. What could be more effective that suggesting 'racism' to stop the loyal opposition in their tracks, while claiming the moral high road? We can all pat our collective selves on the back, with a sense of relief, knowing we aren't the racists. Well done.
Tom November 17, 2012 at 02:12 AM
Where in the world do you get this mis-information from??? Not one Freedom Valley Y employee or volunteer that will make a dime because of this merger ... other than ALL full time employees who will have a better retirement plan. I am one of a few board members who sets the compensation plan and retirement plan for the CEO of Freedom Valley and I was on the merger committee that helped draft the merger plan. This is just factually untrue. Please stop saying things that you have no knowledge of. I would be happy to meet with you or anyone who wants us to repeat the facts that have been provided.
1 November 17, 2012 at 03:23 AM
John Q, I'm guessing you aren't even a member of the Y and are just here trolling with your racist BS! You and Jack Minster should meet up in Valley Forge park or a rest stop on the turnpike!
Royersfordmomwhocares November 17, 2012 at 03:29 AM
I needed to respond, being that I grew up in the "thieving" "vandalizing" prone city the flyer seems to allude to, two things 1st, I live up here now, raising my kids & I'm white. I'm offended by the wording of the flyer, which in a not so subtle way, makes it sound like those of us from the city (which is home to much of my family) will come up here & ruin your suburbantopia, a place where it's all rainbows & butterflies, mini vans & play dates. I'm a transplant here from the city, so I've witnessed & lived, both sides of the coin. Do I know the city has it's issues, high crime rate etc..of course, who doesn't, just watch the news but there are issues EVERYWHERE, some just take different forms. But seriously, the flyer wording, made it sound like a crime spree apocalypse was going to occur with this merger..it's absurd.The fact is, the Y was started to help people, bring people together, some should start remembering that. The Y here, is a country club without the golf, so it's easy to lose sight of why the Y was started, it's about community, yes, but also helping, giving, not just spinning classes and poolside gossip. oh, and for those so outraged that the wording of the flyer is being compared to a form of bigotry...please, let's all be honest here, the wording is just what it is...a subtle way to scare people that "those city hooligans" are going to come in droves, by buses & take over.."dirtying up the place." Those with any common sense can read between the lines
Tom November 17, 2012 at 04:11 AM
Well said ... bravo.
John Q. Public November 17, 2012 at 01:45 PM
Dear 1, I do feel people - with little evidence - are much too quick to flash the 'race card' to win arguments, although I cannot deny its effectiveness. Merger proponents, who may be the only people who saw the flyer, merely suggested 'racism,' and that was enough to suppress the opposition vote, who simply stayed home. I was in the Y the night the flyer was allegedly distributed, but knew nothing of it until I read about it here. The alleged 'racist' flyer certainly helped the merger to succeed.
Local Y Trashed November 17, 2012 at 04:23 PM
Play the race card anyway you like. Nobody from the spring valley y is the one mentioning that card. Anyway you try to justify it or spin it it breaks down to a gross misappropriation of funds. Try talking about how stable the Y's will be post merger... Financially we were stable. Add on top of that the mismanagement of just how this merger was handled I really have to question the leadership abilities of this board. And Tom if you want to compare this to the corporate world, shareholders would vote you out after a debacle like this. So you should thank your lucky stars you are nonprofit. Handleing a big secession like this in the corporate world would never fly. The one great thing about the Y is it was a local organization, unfortunately that is no longer.
Laura November 17, 2012 at 10:02 PM
Looking forward to resigning my membership at the Y. Based on the despicable voting procedure alone, I am disgusted with the shady head honchos there. Making us (some elderly and some very young children) stand out in the cold for up to an hour to place our votes? What a disgrace. Whoever thought up the voting process, I hope you're happy.
oneofthegoodguys November 17, 2012 at 10:57 PM
Laura no one knew the turnout would be so tremendous. I am looking forward to continuing my membership minus those who have lost site of the ymca values and Christian principles and don't want to share in community.
Laura November 18, 2012 at 02:44 AM
"One of the good guys"--obviously there would be a huge voter turnout!! This merger is kind of a big deal. If they were not expecting people to show up, then they were underestimating how much people really care about the Y. I just think that is a lame excuse. It was a huge inconvenience, and I think they were hoping that not many would show, so they could push the merger through as quickly as possible. If they really cared about what the members thought, then they should have made the vote quick and painless. Not that it even matters at this point, but it would have made so much more sense to put ballot boxes in each of the gyms. Duh.
Tom November 18, 2012 at 05:44 AM
What debacle? I looked at your previous comments and I could not find any details about what negatives you think are occurring other than you are assuming there will be some loss of financial stability. Perhaps you could get a group of other dissenters and I would be happy to meet with you to give everyone more details and answers to your questions. As you point out we are now very financially stable and the board who helped provide this financial stability is the same one that wants to merge with Philly. Is there some reason to think that our judgement suddenly became less effective? The national YMCA has been promoting mergers of Y's because they have observed how the financial condition of the larger Y's are able to weather bad times so much easier. Where are you getting your "facts"? Perhaps you are hearing things from members who are just making assumptions without any facts. Ironically when we decided to invest in the construction of Spring Valley, Upper Perk and Audubon we had minimal complaints or concerns about any of those decisions which were mush more likely to cause a negative financial impact to the existing members who gained virtually nothing from these large expansions. Fortunately a majority of the members (shareholders) did vote to support our decision so it looks like our volunteer ... unpaid ... positions are secure for a while. Despite this support we still want to address the concerns of those who were against the merger ... including your concerns.
Royersfordmomwhocares November 18, 2012 at 07:16 AM
Seriously....this is a Y.....people are acting as if this is the end of the world. It boggles my mind that people are so upset over a Y....can we not put our voices behind something that really matters, oh for instance finding a cure for childhood cancer or any cancer for that matter, homelessness, child abuse, securing help for our vets when they return from war, bullying, suicide from bullying....these are real issues, not a merger of a Y...it's a damn building, that offers activities, its not the end of the world, life will carry for all of you after the merger..it's not going to make or break you, let's get a grip on reality and our priorities, shall we?
Mohandus Frieri November 18, 2012 at 08:35 AM
These are the same boners who not only oppose everything but are the same know-nothings who have supported Romney-Ryan-Limbaugu-McCain-Palin-Huckaby-FoxNews, etc. Just tell them to go to hell and dismiss them as the idiots they are.
RA November 18, 2012 at 02:43 PM
Gotta love it - the articulate voice of the voting majority. All you need to know about the opposition in one tidy sentence - intellectual inferiors who <gasp!> may have even voted against the Democratic Party. What further proof does one need to dismiss anyone? Too bad I couldn't have circulated an email to the entire memebership 24 hours prior to the vote reassuring the membership that such narrow-minded sentiments don't reveal the true nature of our voters and that we're all open-minded people who really respect each other's opinions - YEAH RIGHT!
Local Y Trashed November 18, 2012 at 03:48 PM
Tom the debacle mentioned refers to the process and handleing of the merger. The member base is an educated group, unfortunately many that I know feel as they were treated on the contrary. At the meeting on Monday everyone felt as though the board was very condescending to the member base. This is the main concern of many members. It should have been handled differently instead of jammed down our throughts. Also per the bylaws a vote could have been held at each branch which would have been a better indication of the true sentiment of the member base. Again the board misused their power to override this. So even though the votes barley passed this merger that does not mean it is overwhelmingly what the members want. One clue should be only 150 Philly members thought it important to vote yet over 1,000 Spring Valley members went WAY out of there way to vote. In the future you would be better served if you listened to the member base instead of assuming you know what is best. I know from the many members that I talk to there is a very uneasy knotch in our stomachs on the way this was mishandled. At the least there needs to be a lot of damage control just to restore the the ideals the Y should be based on. Not many people have the community, or Christian feeling about our Y and that hurts because that is one of the reasons we joined.
Tom November 19, 2012 at 02:54 AM
In hind-site I think we should have held the Town Hall meeting about one or two weeks earlier and then we could have offered to meet a second time with those who did not get their questions answered. I have been involved with several mergers and expansions since 1984 and this is the first one where there was so much emotional interest from one branch. This did take some of the leadership by surprise but I frankly felt that every question and issue was addressed between the handouts, emails, web site and the meeting. Is there a specific question that was not answered? I realize that members may not have liked some of our answers but I can't see how we hid anything or jammed anything down anyone's throat. If a member does not believe that the leadership is telling the truth, it typically means the member has already decided which way they are going to vote. We communicated to our members in many ways for at least a month and we had little resistance or problems from any of our 5 branches except Spring Valley. Frankly if members were allowed to vote by mail or online ... or ... if they could drop a ballot at their local branch when they visited over a one week period the results would have been much more in favor of the merger. I am sure you will agree that it is typically those who oppose an issue that are motivated to come out and vote. From my personal experience in talking to members at Phoenixville I would say that a vast majority favored the merger but few voted.
Pierre Le Fleche November 19, 2012 at 01:10 PM
do you know what you are talking about? Such drivel...get a life and stop talking baloney!!You would not even be able to organize a bird in a cage..I don't see any of you numb nuts standing in line to volunteer ...probably never did anything in life except whine and moan...Catch a wake....time to move on..
Pierre Le Fleche November 19, 2012 at 01:29 PM
What mismanagement are you talking about...? Do you just suck these things out of no where?Do you know what the word secession means...? Have you ever worked in the corporate world? Your comments are unfounded and totally beyond the realms of reality...You are just spewing and spewing the biggest lot nonsense...check it may be time for your meds...
Intheweeds November 19, 2012 at 01:30 PM
Tom, I thank you for coming here, and posting. I'm glad the merger went through, despite the FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) that was put out there by some of the membership. That FUD turned a no-brainer decision into one that only passed by 56 votes. That said, Freedom Valley leadership really bungled the process. 1. First and foremost, it seems that much of the membership did not understand the fact that the Philadelphia Y is a system of Y's just like Freedom Valley - and that half of them are NOT in Philadelphia. 2. The real long-term benefit to combining was completely lost on people. 3. Having to vote in-person on a specific night was annoying. A ballot should have been able to be sent to every registered and active member to mail back in. 4. If it was the Spring Valley branch causing all this noise, and felt that they would be overrun with people from the Philadelphia Y system, they should have been provided a map, showing where they are, and where each of the Philadelphia Y branches are and how NOBODY from the Philly Y system would be trekking to their branch. They should have also been given a picture of the Ambler Y pool facility, showing that if Philly Y members wanted to go to a pool, Ambler, not Spring Valley, would be choice #1.
Tom November 19, 2012 at 04:13 PM
Thanks for your comments. Your point about Philly having most of their branches in the suburbs was probably not communicated clearly to many members but at theTown Hall meeting where hundreds of concerned members from Spring Valley were present we presented the maps of both FV and Philly and then what the map of our combined branches would look like. At the meeting members who supported the merger disputed that Philly members would skip all of the other nearby branches and come all the way out to Spring Valley but apparently some SV members were still concerned that their facilities would become even more crowded. Also ... the Pennsylvania state laws require that members must be present to vote at not-for-profit special meetings like Thursday's vote, Thanks again for your support and I think I am going to stop commenting on Patch for now but if any member would like to meet with me or others you can approach your branch management and I am sure they will help to arrange a meeting with someone to answer questions and address issues. I am very enthusiastic about the future of the YMCA and hopefully years from now members will conclude this was a good decision when they see ... the current services and facilities have only improved and that ... we have at least two new full-service branches in Upper Perk and Audubon/Norristown serving tens of thousands of additional members and ... that we are able to provide substantially more scholarships to needy families than we are now.
1 November 21, 2012 at 02:28 PM
I'm sure nobody will miss one less fatty blocking two lanes on the indoor track.


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