Deal Reached to Keep Open YMCA Centers

Todays News


It looks like two YMCA fitness centers in Sarasota will stay open, but under new management. 

The board for the Sarasota Family YMCA organization announced Wednesday it has reached an agreement with the new school, Dreamers Academy, and the organizations Save Our Y and Project Stoked. As part of the deal, parties said, the fitness centers will now operate as part of a new organization—The Sarasota Y.

Jim Purdy, a former chief operating officer for the YMCA who left the organization more than six years ago, will volunteer as acting president of the group. “I would just hate like heck to see these beautiful assets disappear,” Purdy says. He describes himself as a behind-the-scenes guy always interested in developing the organization.

He would not address the more recent management of the YMCA, which announced earlier this month it had to close down the Frank G. Berlin and Evelyn Sadler Jones centers because of financial problems. The new organization will have a new board. Meanwhile, social services under the auspices of the Sarasota Family YMCA will stay under that existing organization.

Board members say there have been growing problems in terms of finances, and that for years other services have helped supplement the fitness centers despite those being the part of the YMCA most visible to the public.

Now, there is confidence the community treasure can continue.

“There is a lot of hope that good things are happening and the board is more than willing to work with any organization that will preserve the YMCA,” says Sarasota Family YMCA board member Erik Arroyo. “That’s what everyone wants.”

There seemed a lifeline for the centers when Dreamers Academy, a planned dual language charter school planned to open in August 2020, reached out to YMCA leadership. Founder Geri Chaffee says her group was near a deal with another property when the YMCA went public with its issues with the centers. Chaffee says the school started working with the group Save Our Y on a plan to save the centers.

“I have been awed by that organization, that was so quickly put into place,” she says. “I trust them because this is their sole purpose.”

While Sarasota Family YMCA members have noted declining membership at gyms impacting the fitness centers, the new Sarasota Y leaders note the old organization once ran four centers. Most believe just having the Berlin and Jones centers in operation can be achieved with existing membership numbers.

“We are overwhelmed by the level of commitment and partnership witnessed over the past few days,” says Sarasota Family YMCA chair Michele Grimes. 

Anya Adams, a founder of Project Stoked, a nonprofit investing in organizations making social impacts, says the centers were worth saving. Adams will be on the board for the Sarasota Y.

“Seldom do we come across a project that not only fits our investment criteria but also has a direct impact on our own family’s wellbeing,” she said.

But the new organization said there is still work to be done. While a cash infusion from Project Stoked and Save Our Y will keep centers open, there will still be more fundraising.

"“We urge members and friends to go to our web site, and continue donating so that we can hit the $1.2 million mark by the time new management takes over operations,” said Charlie Campbell, chair for the Sarasota Y.

Photo courtesy Sarasota Family YMCA: Evelyn Sadlier Jones Center.

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