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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. 

Buck Davis November 13, 2012 at 01:52 PM
Unanswered are the loss of major donors who are also upset with how this has been handled and concerned that their donation are now available to all YMCAs in the Freedom Valley and Philadelphia Associations. Unanswered are the personal enrichement of the already grossly overpaid executive who will retire with a very nice parting gift...the lack of information continues.
Greg guess November 13, 2012 at 02:17 PM
Merger is all about shifting money to Philadelphia and will take away from upgrades and up keep of spring valley area.
Intheweeds November 13, 2012 at 03:12 PM
Greg - half of the Philly YMCA branches are not in Philadelphia. Have you seen the beautiful Ambler Y or the new Haverford Y that is under construction? These are both part of the Philly Y. I sincerely doubt that this merger would have any impact on the Spring Valley Y and its maintenance and upgrades. If a merged, more regional YMCA would help in bigger ticket grants and donations, then it would be a good thing to merge.
Alyson D'Alessandro (Editor) November 13, 2012 at 03:36 PM
According to Mr. Lipstein during last night's meeting, Jay Schaeffer is not getting a "golden parachute" - he would have retired regardless of the merger and his retirement package is what he's entitled to after working for the Y for 26 years.
Buck Davis November 13, 2012 at 05:17 PM
The YMCA is a caring part of the community dedicated to Christian ideals. What is troubling and compels me to have to parse every word that comes from the three leaders is that they have demonstrated their true colors. The current leaders do not seem to be focused on the mission of the YMCA The partial release of information, poor communication, unwillingness to make the voting more accessable all point to an attitude of supieriority that gives me great concern. Frankly, any statements they make are very hard to trust at this point. The fact is the merger happens there is no way to hold them accountable from going back on everything they have told us. Undoing the merger would be impossible. Why are we being taken down a path of fixing something that seems to not have a problem?
Peggy E. Keenan November 13, 2012 at 08:40 PM
THE YMCA WILL BE AN ASSET TO OUR COMMUNITY AND TO OUR REAL ESTATE VALUE.
T Rose November 13, 2012 at 09:07 PM
My understanding is that the Philly YMCA area actually has a bigger budget and slightly more resources than our Freedom Valley YMCA. That being said, I believe more information is needed before voting. I also believe an absentee ballot should be allowed, even if the law does not "require" it. Please see my comments under other article posted 11/12/2012 - http://limerick.patch.com/articles/freedom-valley-philadelphia-ymcas-to-merge#comments
childcare provider November 13, 2012 at 10:49 PM
The cost of medical benefits for staff would be significantly reduced if the merger is approved, and I hope that the members consider this when they cast their votes.
shady lane November 14, 2012 at 12:46 AM
if you know anything about the corp world, any CEO retiring from a business would get a hefty retirement package. That's a given! And if he/she is lucky enough to get a bonus along with it, so be it. This is how it works in the world today. This has nothing to do with what the merger can and will offer to it's members, community and to the staff of both Phila. and FV.
shady lane November 14, 2012 at 12:52 AM
Greg R U for real??? this is the attitude of closed minded people. SV can't supply enough $ to upgrade their own FIVE branches. It's not all about SV. There are many others who will benifit.
Buck Davis November 14, 2012 at 02:04 AM
Shade, we are not in the corporate world, the YMCA is a charity. Compared to other sized charities the two execs of these associations are grossly over compensated. Frankly it verges on being criminal. Good for them and shame of the Boards who owe a fiduciary duty to the members and beneficiaries of the YMCA. Their tax returns are publin information. If yoy have a strong stomach look over the figures.
childcare provider November 14, 2012 at 02:31 AM
The Spring Valley branch has had 3 additions and it has not been open 10 years yet. The Audubon and Upper Perk branches will be built as long as the Y get the approvals from the townships...Philadelphia is a larger association, with a larger budget, they don't need the merger, just like Freedom Valley doesn't need the merger, but I think they are being proactive...there is more competition now, Rascel Fitness, Planet Fitness the Upper Providence rec center...a larger organization will be able to bargain with suppliers, which will ultimately keep prices for members low.
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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