(Updated) YWCA's future? Board invites some to a meeting Thursday, but not the workers or, so far, the public | Citizen | Indy Week
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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

(Updated) YWCA's future? Board invites some to a meeting Thursday, but not the workers or, so far, the public

Posted by on Tue, Mar 13, 2012 at 12:44 AM

[Update, 10:15 a.m.: I just spoke with Doug McMillan, CEO of the YMCA of the Triangle. He said the YMCA is not a convener of the Thursday meeting nor is it looking to take anything from the YWCA. "We are coming to listen," McMillan said. "We are not leading."

[The YMCA has collaborated successfully with other organizations in East Raleigh, and that kind of collaboration may be possible with some of the programs the YWCA has been running, McMIllan added. But at this point, without much information about what the YW's specific programs are, he doesn't know how such a collaboration might work. "We want to be supportive," McMillan said. "We just don't know how best to be supportive."

[I have calls in to Craig Chancellor and Maria Spaulding, and I'll be writing a piece later for tomorrow's Indy.]

What follows is the original post from last night —

It's been a week since terminated workers hosted their meeting at Martin Street Baptist Church, and there's been no public word from the Board of Directors of the YWCA of the Greater Triangle. I was told by two reliable sources that, prior to that public session in the church last Monday, board members assured a small group of community leaders during a private session that they'd be getting together soon with the workers — soon meaning by the weekend.

Well, that didn't happen. But the YWCA board has called a big meeting in two days — apparently it's invitation-only — with United Way officials, the leadership of the YMCA of the Triangle, and some other dignitaries including a few Southeast Raleigh leaders. It's billed as "an important meeting to discuss the future of the organization. YOUR input and advice are critical."

But none of the terminated employees were invited, apparently, nor any of the YW's program participants, for that matter.

The meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m.-12 noon in the auditorium at the Hospice of Wake County campus, which is located at 5980 Trinity Road in West Raleigh, on the other side of town and miles from the YWCA building.

The invitation came from YWCA board chair Maria Spaulding and United Way of the Greater Triangle CEO Craig Chancellor. Also copied up top were Doug McMillan, CEO of the YMCA of the Triangle, and Bruce Lightner, a Southeast Raleigh leader who co-chairs the Raleigh MLK Celebration Committee.

Lightner, in an email provided to one of the former YWCA workers, told a fellow invitee that he was asked to get involved by the Rev. Earl Johnson, pastor at Martin Street Baptist and the new president of the Raleigh-Wake Citizens Association (RWCA), Southeast Raleigh's main political organization. "It is my understanding the meeting is called by the Triangle YMCA Board, Triangle YMCA Administrators and Triangle United Way Administrators," Lightner says in the email.

Lightner expressed concern that a closed-door meeting will simply add to the "mountain of distrust and animosity" that Southeast Raleigh feels toward the YW's board. It's time, he suggests, for the board "to have a community wide meeting and invite former YWCA Board Members, former YWCA Staff, other stake holders in the boarder community ... and citizens most effected by the YWCA's closing. Such a public meeting will go a long way in providing a vision and commitment to move forward with openness and transparency."

Johnson, when I reached him by telephone, said he's committed to keeping the YWCA open, but he said it may not necessarily be called the YWCA. "I do think there needs to be a change in leadership," Johnson said. "But you were at the meeting Monday. People spoke out strongly that it that they want it to stay [and reopen]. The community benefits are tremendous. I haven't heard anybody say, come shut it down."

One possible scenario I've heard is that YMCA may take over most of the YWCA's programs, though not necessarily its building nor its core mission. [And this — see above — is the impression that the YMCA's Doug McMillan is anxious to dispel.]

The building and adjacent lots owned by the YWCA are valued at upwards of $1 million, I'm told. But the YWCA is in debt to the tune of $500,000 or perhaps more. So YWCA board members may be anxious to liquidate the assets — the building — pay off the debts and go away.

WRAL reported last week that the governing body for the national YW organization had no idea the local YWCA was in financial trouble before it closed so abruptly on February 29.

***

If the YMCA takes over, however, two things will almost certainly be true.

Number one, whatever programs remain from the YW, the organization will not be led by women, let alone women of color, as the YWCA has historically been.

Number two, the YMCA is very unlikely to maintain the YWCA's mission, which is: Empower women, and eradicate racism.

To maintain the mission, the YWCA would need to be reconstituted as an independent organization with a strong board, led by women and housed in Southeast Raleigh. Where in Southeast Raleigh? Well, there's a perfectly good building on East Hargett Street.

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