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The clock is ticking. Here's how to help save the YMCA

Council will make a critical decision on Monday
A supporter waves a sign during a rally to save the Sault YMCA, which announced in April that it would have to close. File photo

With only days left before Monday's deadline for the Sault YMCA to demonstrate its sustainability by hitting 2,400 members, those working to save the imperilled organization have released a fact sheet to help explain the situation, the YMCA's plans for the future and how people and businesses can pitch in:

Help the Y, help the Community

A two-minute explainer of what the Y needs to stay open in Sault Ste. Marie

What happened?

  • An aging building and COVID contributed to operating losses with the Y. The mortgage lender became uncomfortable, and called the mortgage;
  • The volunteer board members were concerned about meeting future obligations, and so decided to close and put the building up for sale; this decision was quickly reversed when the City of Sault Ste. Marie and the Charitable foundation stepped in;

Here’s where we are at today:

  • The purchaser of the YMCA building will be the Dr. Lou and Mae Lukenda Charitable Foundation, a local non-profit established to honour their legacy. Dr. Lou and Mae Lukenda believed in the motto to “Give where you live” and have supported numerous local causes over many years. “As with many local families, the Y has been an important part of our family over multiple generations,” stated a spokesperson for the Lukenda family. “We are glad to be able to support this effort to save the Sault Ste. Marie Y through the purchase of the building, enabling the YMCA to pay off their existing bank mortgage and fund needed repairs,” they added.
  • A lease agreement will be created with the foundation and the YMCA for $100,000 per year - a significant reduction in the prior costs to service the building mortgage. Even better, the money paid to the foundation will be re-invested in the community;
  • The City of Sault Ste. Marie is being asked to contribute approximately $500,000 and intends to work with the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund (NOHFC) in the hopes they will match this contribution for needed upgrades to the facility; these upgrades will also help to reduce the operating costs of the YMCA through new and more efficient systems;
  • A membership drive is underway with a target of 2400 members by next week. We are now just 365 members short as the community has stepped up to buy memberships for staff, for giveaways, and to donate to people and families in need;
  • City Council will vote on Monday, July 15th, as to whether to guarantee the ten-year lease and confirm their contribution. Part of their acceptance requires that we need to hit the membership target;
  • In the past week alone, local businesses, individuals and families have stepped up and pledged over $350,000 in support!

Why will things be different?

  • The funds received from the purchase of the building will pay out almost all of debt that the Y has, putting it on a more stable footing;
  • The upgrades to the building (such as a new boiler) will also reduce ongoing operating costs and the Y is running a “Bridge to the Future” capital campaign to support further upgrades;
  • A key change going forward, and critical to the rebuilding of the SSM YMCA, will be the successful negotiation of a Management Agreement with a larger, regional Y.
  • A Management Agreement will add capacity and resources in functional areas like finance, human resources, governance, philanthropy and subject matter expertise in operational areas like health and wellness and child care.

What’s next?

  • Following the City Council decision next Monday, the Dr. Lou and Mae Lukenda Charitable Foundation would close on the real estate transaction on August 6th;
  • Following the closing, the Y can begin to negotiate the terms of a Management Agreement;
  • The SSM YMCA can now continue its delivery of programs and services, while beginning the important work of planning for a new facility to serve the needs of SSM for the future.

Now is the time to act. We are only 365 memberships away from saving the Y

Here’s how you can help as an individual:

Here’s how you can help as a business:

  • Purchase a membership for your staff
  • Make a donation to the YMCA
  • Purchase a campaign sponsorship package (which will include memberships which businesses can allocate to staff, clients or giveaways) OR Purchase membership sponsorships and the YMCA will help allocate to New Canadians and young adults or families in need

For either, please contact one of:

Laura Balint, SSM YMCA- [email protected]
David Saunders, Lukenda Holdings Inc. - [email protected]
Jeff Elgie, Village Media - [email protected]

Note: in the cases of all donations, a charitable receipt can be provided.

What's next?

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