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Freedom Valley Y Leaders Say Merger Opponents are Race-Baiting

An e-mail from the Freedom Valley YMCA's management criticizes a flyer sent to members yesterday.

Freedom Valley YMCA members received an e-mail from the organization late Wednesday afternoon, November 14, regarding a flyer that was reportedly left at the Phoenixville YMCA's information desk listing seven reasons to vote against the merger with the Philadelphia YMCA. 

"Not one of the issues addressed in the flyer was factually accurate," the e-mail reads. YMCA leaders have repeatedly asserted that there is a "lot of misinformation" being disseminated regarding the merger.

[Editor's note: A copy of the e-mail from the YMCA can be read in the PDF section of this article.]

The e-mail goes on, however, to sharply criticize the language in the flyer. 

The e-mail reads, "An example of the type of vitriol that is now being strewn follows – and this is a direct quote from the flyer: 

'Do you think it's possible under the proposed merger for a couple bus loads of inner-city Y members to trek out to OUR Y to enjoy the beautiful pools on a hot summer day? Or overrun our playgrounds? It will be if you allow this merger. So get in line because the crowds are coming. We have great facilities, but they will soon be at risk to over-use, crowding, damage, depreciation, and possibly vandalism.'"

The e-mail continues: "More offensive than the falsehood, however, is the not too subtle racial overtone in the message. The author suggests in the flyer that a merger with Main Line Y would be fine... but not with center city Philly."

The e-mail says that the bigotry displayed in the flyer is "anathema to everything for which the YMCA stands, and should cause any member to take umbrage that this is the type of scare tactic being adopted by some of those opposed to the merger."

"This is what happens when there are no valid arguments to support one's position," the e-mail contends. 

A vote on the merger is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday night, Nov. 15, at Chadwick's Restaurant, 2750 Egypt Road in Audubon. According to information presented at a town hall on Monday evening, Freedom Valley YMCA members who wish to vote must attend the meeting. 

Both sides, Freedom Valley and Philadelphia, have to agree on the merger for it to happen. 

Peter McKenney November 15, 2012 at 07:27 PM
The biggest problem here...is probably the belief by people that the YMCA is a workout facility. The YMCA, although it has beautiful facilities, is a place built to knit communities together through an approach to total health. It is a gathering place for people regardless of socio-economic class, pigment, or even religious belief. It was founded on biblical principles and its core values are honesty, respect and responsibility. We have a chance to become part of something bigger here, and grow the influence of our community.We just might even learn something if we are not careful. Vote yes!!
Jack November 15, 2012 at 08:21 PM
Amen Peter. You nailed on the head. Stop taking and start giving people...It will set you free
JTH November 15, 2012 at 08:58 PM
You are missing the point. It is not about race, demographics, or the will of the people. It is about the control of a 26 million dollar non profit organization. The merger would create a 60 million dollar entity controlled by John Flynn, who has been selected by the Board of Directors to lead the operation at an annual salary of $500,000. a year.. Why not drop you name in the hat. JTH
PaulT November 15, 2012 at 09:01 PM
What's the matter with this Board of Directors? Seems like they are becoming dictators, as they have entire meeting thing covered with themselves as a quorem. Quprem = 15. Bd of Dir = 18. Closed vote. The me membership is being railroaded. Whoever heard of a hand vote with an the intimidation factor being so strong on the side of the Board. REALLY!
Peter McKenney November 15, 2012 at 09:16 PM
It will improve and significantly reduce healthcare expenses for employees. It will broaden the influence and impact the YMCA can have as a charity organization. I don't disagree that there could have been a better release of information, and that more transparency would comfort some people. I do believe a vote against the merger is short-sighted and selfish. I have been involved in YMCA's since I was a boy in Virginia and I believe in its impact in the lives of our future leaders!
JTH November 15, 2012 at 09:37 PM
When as few as 15 people are able to control an organization of this size, without the membership being able to question or disagree with the Board of Directors, emits an foul aroma. It may surprise you to know that the new bylaws (as part of the merger) maintain the same number to reach a quorum. Any bells going off yet? Or, Like Nancy do we have to merge before we find out whats in it.
Carol L. Custer November 15, 2012 at 10:27 PM
I used to be a member of the Spring Valley Y. I was actually a charter member. I stopped going a while ago because of the overcrowded conditions. It's hard to find a parking spot any day and even more so in the summer when the pools are open. I can't imagine why they are even considering merging with any other Y, center city or otherwise, when they barely have room for the current members. I wish you all good luck if this merger happens as there will be no room at the pool!
nashville November 15, 2012 at 10:55 PM
Honestly, enough is enough. The Y is supposed to be a safe, fun, community orientated place. A pool is a pool, a fitness center is still a fitness center. Etc. It's sad that people today think they are better than the next person. Get over yourself and start thinking about helping kids, families, adults within the community!!!!!
JTH November 15, 2012 at 11:06 PM
Its fascinating how a little misdirection skews peoples ability to reason. The inference of race changes the focus from the "Grand Plan", to peoples petty prejudices (real or imagined). What is not being addressed or will not surface is the legality of tonights proceedings. Initially, there was to be a hand vote. That has been changed to a ballot. The time of the election has been altered to accommodate all. There may be other changes that will occur of which I am not aware. The bottom line is that for any for these alterations to occur, there has to be a meeting. The meeting must be announced 21 days in advance. There has to be a vote for the proposals. And all this must be public under the Pennsylvania Sunshine Law. Thus the legality of tonights vote is questionable on its face. Do you think any one will listen.
Rofo Mofo November 16, 2012 at 01:53 AM
There may be some benefit from a cost standpoint to merge with Philly but taking local control out of the local community and putting it in the hands of a board 35 miles away that has few, if any, ties to our local community is not productive. The race baiting is stupid....and the flyers worrying about kids from Philly taking an hour long bus ride are silly. The pools will not be more crowded because of the merger. That said, any local decision making goes out the window and goes in the hands of a bunch of guys in Center City. Ask local agencies serviced by the United Way how responsive Philly has been to the needs of the Pottstown community since the Pottstown United way merged a few years ago...it isn't the same level of impact. I hope those who attended tonight vote to protect local control....it may cost a bit more but the decisions are made by your neighbors, friends, and people who care about the Pottstown, Phoenixville, and 422 communities.
David DeHart November 16, 2012 at 01:54 AM
YMCA..... Young Men's CHRISTIAN Association, I don't see alot of that C thing going on here,
Mothering4 Him November 16, 2012 at 03:53 AM
Denise, I recommend you start putting more time into being a part of the solution, instead of "fanning" the problem. We know child molesters shop at the grocery stores, but we all still shop there don't we? Why? Because MOST of us AREN'T! I love blacks and I love whites and I love hispanics, etc. Let's rejoice that MOST of us aren't racist, stop pointing fingers (over-reacting and namecalling), and show ourselves friendly to ALL the wonderful colors the good Lord has made! :)
No Excuses November 16, 2012 at 04:49 AM
Based on these comments, clearly there are some valid concerns about this merger taking place that should be reviewed and addressed, but anyone who doesn't think that commentary is race baiting is naive. Why do you think the Audubon Y was denied at Markley Farms? Too close to "those people" in Norristown. They might get on a bus and show up there.
Joe November 16, 2012 at 06:28 AM
Apart from the benefit to a few employees and people at the top I see no benefit to a merger. This smells a bit when opposition to something is immediately labeled racist. What does racist even mean anymore? Is it being opposed to something that does not benefit you?
Wkdwtch November 16, 2012 at 10:52 AM
I am a Y employee who was closely involved with the opposition at the Spring Valley Branch and to suggest that our outcry was racially motivated is ludicrous. Our motivation was overcrowding of a already packed facility and fear of change. Corporate handled this situation very badly and it shows. The only reason any information was divulged or a town meeting was held was because of member outcry. The issues that most people were concerned about were overcrowding and allocation of funds. As with any other merger in a workplace, people will be frightened by change, to suggest that we were motivated because we fear people from other races using our facility was an idea proposed by management to make us look bad. The supposed flyer was from Phoniexville btw not Spring Valley. The whole merger process at our facility was surreptitious and when the members cried foul we were treated like errant children that needed to be pacified. I am not saying that there will not be benefits but for those of u touting the healthcare benefits, they are only for Full time employees, about 5% of the Y workforce. Misinformation, fear and botched public relations are to be blamed for this situation, not racism. The Spring Valley YMCA is an amazing facility. For those of you suggesting anything less, you obviously have never been there. The people have proven how passionate they are about it, have they not?
jess5040 November 16, 2012 at 10:54 AM
AMEN!
jess5040 November 16, 2012 at 10:57 AM
Actually, each facility is going to maintain it's community commitment to continue to serve their neighborhoods
Tom November 16, 2012 at 02:01 PM
I am a member of the Freedom Valley Board and I was one of three board members who worked on the merger committee that met with our counterparts at the Philly Y. The important reasons for the merger have been distributed in many ways but they are apparently hard for some members to accept. 1.- The combination of the two Y's will make us among a handful of the most financially stable Y's in the country and will help to insure that we will be able to maintain the great facilities and service indefinitely 2- The merger will allow us to raise many more charitable contributions from large corporations and others who are in our expanded geographic area. We will be able to provide OVER 2 million dollars in scholarships to needy families in our existing branch areas. 3- The merger will provide more job opportunities for our employees and it will allow us to attract top notch employees because of the "scale" of our organization. The key to providing great service to our members lies with our ability to attract and retain great employees. 4- The merger will allow the Freedom Valley Y to take advantage of "pilot" programs (like diabetes prevention) where substantial funding is provided to only large organizations. We will now be able to obtain funding for many pilot programs that we can not take advantage of now. There are more advantages but these are the primary issues that drove our merger decisions
Tom November 16, 2012 at 02:51 PM
I want to add some additional comments to help members understand as many issues as possible. Again ... this is coming from a board member of the Freedom Valley Y. There has been many false statements made about the motivation of the top management of the Y. The compensation of the CEO of Freedom Valley is set using guidelines established by the national YMCA. His compensation is fair and is lower than it would be if he were working for a "for-profit" company. His compensation is not effected at all by the merger. The CEO announced his retirement plans a year ago and his retirement would take place with or without the merger. Unlike board members of "for-profit" companies the board members of the Y have nothing financially to gain from the decisions they make. Most board members are members of the Y ... they use the Y ... their families use the Y. We want the best for the Y because we want great service and great facilities for ourselves and our families. More importantly we also are committed to the mission of the Y. We want to help needy families who can't afford what we have to offer. We are currently building two more major facilities in Upper Perk and the Audubon/Norristown area that will enable us to provide services to many, many more people. The merger with Philly will allow us to continue this expansion in the future and it will and allow us to reach out to even more areas that are not served by a YMCA ... WITHOUT negatively impacting what we have now
Tom November 16, 2012 at 04:36 PM
JTH .. I am a member of the Freedom Valley Board of Directors and I posted comments below about the goals of our board. I would like to set the record straight as far as the mis-information that has been distributed about the compensation of top management. I am one of a handful of people who set the compensation of the CEO. I have served on Y boards since 1984. The compensation for both the CEO of Freedom Valley and Philly are set using guidelines that are established by the national YMCA. They are extremely fair. Either CEO could make a lot more if they were working for a "for-profit" company. The CEO of Freedom Valley will not make a dime more because of the merger. His retirement plan is the same whether the merger went through or not. Board members do not derive any financial benefit by serving on the board ... in fact ... most contribute very generously and raise funds from their contacts. Please stop claiming that anyone in top leadership positions gains from this merger.
Tom November 16, 2012 at 04:42 PM
I am on the Freedom Valley board and I want to insure you that control of the Freedom Valley branches is not being put into the hands of the Philly board. Here are the facts ... this is being looked at as a total merger of equals. In fact I could argue that the Freedom Valley Y is coming out ahead. We have 24 members on our Board and Philly has 50 members on their board. The new board will have 36 members ... 18 from Freedom Valley and 18 from Philly. We are only losing 6 board members ... Philly is cutting 32 board members. The bylaws state that the Freedom Valley area will never have less than 1/3 board representation and that Philly will never have less than 1/3. As we merge with other Y's or build other Y's the other 1/3 of the board will go to those areas. If you look out 10 or 20 years this will insure that we have more than our share of local representation in the Delaware Valley.
Tom November 17, 2012 at 12:25 AM
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 17, 2012 at 12:46 AM
Barbara: I am on the board of the Freedom Valley board of directors. I posted comments below to help explain our goals and reasons for promoting the merger. As far as this issue ... no-one in a leadership position gains a penny from this merger. As I mentioned in a comment above the flyer that was left at the Y not only warned of bus loads of inner-city Y members coming to our Y but they noted that a merger with the Main Line Y or Exton would be fine. The email we sent to members pointed this out and it did not use the word racial (although it very well could have been the intent). What we did take exception with was the obvious cultural bias reflected in the flyer. It was clearly a scare tactic to create fear. In talking one-on-one with many members who voted against the merger they were worried about the heightened crime this merger would bring to the community. Where does that thinking come from? Did the author of the flyer promote that fear? Why is it Ok for us to merge with other Y's or for us to build new facilities in Upper Perk or Audubon but not Philly? BTW ... the Flyer contained many other offensive and untrue claims. This Flyer had our logo on it to encourage other members to read it as if it was from us ... it was a very nasty tactic. For Denise ... there is extremely low racial problems at the Y. There may be a few members with hang-ups but we would like to think that we are as open and fair as any organization you will fine.
Tom November 17, 2012 at 12:55 AM
Please read my comments above about the flyer. Maybe I am reading your comments wrong but you appear to be saying that people who live in cities or from different cultures are to be avoided. am probably wrong but In case that is what you meant that is exactly the attitude that we were attempting to head-off when we read the flyer that had our logo on it which was left to be read by our members. This was clearly a scare tactic aimed at anyone who wants to resist including people from different cultures and income levels. Sometimes I think that members don't understand the mission of the Y and just look at us as another health club or swim club.
Tom November 17, 2012 at 12:59 AM
Denise: From a member of the Y Board ... please don't let the scare tactics of a very few stop you from using our facilities. You and your husband and your family will always be welcome at the Y.
Tom November 17, 2012 at 01:08 AM
Paul there were almost 1000 members who voted last night. the vote count was audited by an accounting firm and witnessed by members who were against the merger. There was no attempt to railroad anything. Even members who voted against the merger were impressed by the voting process. it took almost 3 hours for members to vote by ballot. Yes in the past there were some voting issues wear a hand vote was used because of the almost unanimous support for previous decisions of the board.
oneofthegoodguys November 17, 2012 at 03:54 AM
For those of u with little info about the merger and wonder where the racial undertones came from...most opposition was generated and fueled by a group of women from the spring valley branch. Fueled mostly by Susan touhey pytel they commented "they would be allowed to use our pools and stellar facilities" and "would allow camps to be bussed in when we pay qualifying rates". I am proud of my fellow yes voters. The people have spoken. If you are unhappy...feel your pools are "at risk"...or are simply unable to play nice in the sandbox....by all means join a country club or install a personal pool in your back yard.
Royersfordmomwhocares November 17, 2012 at 04:18 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
Wkdwtch November 17, 2012 at 09:47 AM
Hey one of the goodofthegoodguys to imply Susan was racially motivated is downright slanderous and by using quotation marks you make it seem as if she said those things directly, did she? Also where is race mentioned in either of those comments??????? I know her very well and I think I outlined her reasoning quite well in my previous comment....I don't think almost 500 "no" votes were "fueled by a group of women" making comments with racial undertones as you imply. If you have ever visited our pool in the summer you would know that a very real concern for people would be Y summer camps bussing children of ALL races in to use the pool facility because of OVERCROWDING. I know we have been assured that this won't happen but again although many board members have contributed and said the information was available, the fear of CHANGE that people felt as a result of this merger was not handled well by upper mgmt at the Y. The portrayal of the people at the SPRING VALLEY Y as being snobby suburbanites who do not want their pool used by people of other ethnicities is just false and to accuse Susan or her "group of women" of being racist in any way is extremely offensive.
Paula Goff November 17, 2012 at 04:36 PM
There are certainly many valid reasons for concern about the merger. Freedom Valley's leaders and other supporters are not saying all of the opposition is based on racial fears, just the creepy brochure and its coded language. The brochure and its mentality brings to mind the 2009 incident in which the Valley Club in Huntington Valley revoked its agreement with a North Philadelphia day camp for campers to swim there once a week after the children were subjected to racist and insensitive remarks in their first outing. Yes, those kids were bused in, too. And what happened to the club? The backlash and financial settlement caused it to file for bankruptcy and close. As a white suburban woman who worked in the cultural mixing bowl of Center City for many years, I find it comforting and a source of pride to look around the Spring Valley Y and see women, men, boys & girls of so many races, ethnicities, ages, and levels of abilities being welcomed. It is the most diverse and inclusive institution I've seen in the 'burbs. I'm bettiong that most members feel that way, too, despite the brocure's transparent wording and the defensive cries that anyone who sees it as racist is overreacting.

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