Local group determined to save the “Y” from closure

With varying amounts of cautious optimism, about 150 people turned out Monday at the ‘Save Our YMCA’ rally in Sault Ste. Marie.

As announced by interim Chief Executive Officer John Haddock last Wednesday, the Sault Ste. Marie YMCA property is up for sale and barring 11th-hour funding intervention, the Sault fitness and wellness institution will close its doors May 15.

Many drivers travelling north and south along McNabb Street, which straddles the west side of the Sault YMCA, honked their horns. Loud cheers of appreciation from rally-goers followed in response.

One man pulled up curbside, and simply – and unrelentingly – laid on the horn of his car for at least a full minute. Then he did it again.

“That’s how it’s done!,” shouted one rally-goer. 

The gathering also broke into various collective rallying cries, like this one

“I think it’s a great way to highlight how much the “Y” means to us,” said Whitney MacKenzie, “and what a big loss it will be for the community. (The rally) is a way for us to show that outwardly. It also shows our young kids who are going to miss out on this, how they can join together with people that are like-minded to try to save things that are important to them.”

MacKenzie says her young family has used the Y’s child care program since her daughter was very little and “every single summer camp program, we love them.” 

The MacKenzie family is also now involved in the YMCA’s competitive gymnastics program and Whitney serves as a coach.

“It’s entirely volunteer-based, it makes it very accessible for any child who wants to compete in the sport,” said MacKenzie. “The coaches, we all do it for the love of the sport and the love of our kids and it’s really going to be a shame if we don’t have a place where we can offer our services anymore and provide them to children who are in need.”

Ali Dennie, who launched a Save Our YMCA Facebook page April 18 and organized Monday’s rally, is determined to do what she can to save the Sault’s “Y.” The fledgling group’s membership has hit 3,000, just five days after launch.

“I’m feeling very positive about the rally today,” said Dennie. “It really feels like we are being heard. It was so inspiring to see everyone out today with a chorus of horns as a soundtrack in the background.”

The local YMCA is struggling with day-to-day operating costs, and to pay off a $1.5 million debt. Haddock explained the 60-year-old building has infrastructure issues, needing a new roof, new boilers and more.

The 85,000 sq ft facility is far more space than its 2,800 members need. Heating and light maintenance costs for the complex just add to the financial gravity.

Dennie remains hopeful that a strong drive from the citizenry can make a difference.

“You can really see from the demographics that came out today how this closure would affect the entire community,” Dennie told First Local News. “We had seniors, kids, teens and families out. Everyone was super respectful and likeminded, it was fantastic to have my gymnastics girls out to see what can happen when we all stand together and advocate for what is important to us and our community.”

Dennie, along with Save Our YMCA group administrators Rob Breckenridge, Vanessa Lauszus and Kylie Moon have decided to take a positive tact in trying to save the “Y.”

“This group is about solutions,” says Breckenridge. “It’s not so much about pointing fingers or anything along those lines. I do believe that there is a solution to be found within this group.”

Breckenridge has been a “Y” member for the past couple of years and had membership as a youngster, as well, participating in boxing and judo, and swimming lessons. 

The Sault without a “Y” would be “disastrous for the community,” said Breckenridge.

“I think it’s very important that the “Y” is around for future generations, whether it’s here or in a new building. I can’t say much about why we (citizens) haven’t heard much more. Looking forward to getting that information to see what exactly can be done.”

A closure of the YMCA will displace 541 kids enrolled in the Ys daycare program. 

Marie Michaluk, is a first-year educator with Tarentorus Child Care, one of eight child care facilities operated in the city by the YMCA, says was “shocked, sad, angry and hurt” when news broke last week that the “Y” was likely going to close May 15.

She says there were no rumours or rumblings about a possible closure.

“Nope, not a single peep. We had no clue, and neither did our supervisor.”

The YMCA closing, she says, will likely create a crisis for many parents.

“What are they going to do with their children? Are they going to be able to work or are they going to have to take time off? What’s going to happen to the rest of the Sault when that happens?”

Michaluk says the waiting list for daycare in the Sault is “ridiculous” and some of our parents just got off the waiting list three weeks ago. 

“We just built a brand new centre at Tarentorus that we opened three weeks ago. Now what are they going to do?

She says given the heavy demand while the “Y” is up and running, finding new care spots for 541 kids in its absence, and on short notice, will be next to impossible.

One thought on “Local group determined to save the “Y” from closure

  1. nice to see a local rally that doesn’t involve hatred and conspiracy for one. unfortunately the Y execs may have hidden what was happening until it’s too late to save.

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