In 1959, a country schoolboy's family moved to Toledo's Old West End. There were no creeks and woodlots for youthful rambles, but there was a downtown YMCA and a wonderful huge library. That "Y" was my haven for swimming, wrestling, and Saturday "day" programs that included serial movies. The cost was nominal enough that a kid's family could afford the dollar or so.
As I grew older, I began to appreciate the staff, as well. I realized that some few of the young leaders believed that their service, in what were obviously low-paying jobs, was of some personal value. Whether Christian, or more secular, there was a clear mission orientation among the staff that was inspirational, deliberately made known, that a true man could serve to make the world a better place.
In my high school years, although my family could not afford the summer camps, I attended as a working volunteer and met several notable mentors; capable, successful men and women who exhibited the qualities of citizenship and service that were, and should be, the hallmark of Christian Youth Associations. Some of them were legendary, even then. One, named Doc Miller, buried in a small Michigan cemetery near his beloved Camp Storer, set the bar for those who followed.
In the early 1960s, Clark Ewing became camp director. A successful developer and home builder, he gave up his material status, sold his properties, and moved his family to the cinder-block living quarters of a day-care center in Sylvania. There was no question that he put deeply held beliefs and the wish to serve in a capacity that he loved above personal enrichment. His family was provided a good education and activities, yet he set an example of service that was notable. And, as a former businessman, he could be as hard-nosed as the administrative situation required.
Erie Chapman was head of the YMCA organization at that time, and in many ways embodied the spirit of noblesse oblige, creating the impression of a well-to-do and cultured background. In life and in memory, his reputation was that of "a helluva nice guy," to quote a former camper and former Toledo Fire Department paramedic, Walt Smith, who became involved in Erie's final days as he battled cancer.
Two outstanding young couples who also exemplified the virtue of service then and now, were Jim and Judy Jenks Moore and Bryce and Judy Harbaugh. There is no doubt any one of those four people could have chosen success in far more remunerative careers, yet they placed the rewards of service ahead of financial gain. The Anderson family of Maumee also donated huge amounts of time and material to rebuild that aging camp. As kids, they worked on the spring clean-up crews, sharing heavy and dirty labor with the volunteers. Ever dig out a full outhouse pit, right alongside a shovel-wielding corporate exec? Such events are good lifetime training for future YMCA leaders in humility and service.
All these people were contributors to a better world through a belief in the positive achievements of mankind, person by person.
None of them was in this "business" in order to draw a salary of over a half-million dollars a year, including associated family salaries. The rise of the "MBA class" in nonprofit organizations is destroying their credibility. Such personal aggrandizement as can be seen - with few exceptions in such organizations - simply reinforces the concept that one's money is better spent on front line, direct action organizations. There is no need for highly paid middlemen feasting on the cash flow of memberships, donors, and public money. This present YWCA situation is nothing more than an administrative state of monetary vampirism.
Where is the service? Where is the sacrifice of personal gain ensuring that cash flow from the membership goes to the front lines? The United States has allowed a culture of "middle men in suits and offices" to take over a great many of these nonprofits, to the detriment of original philosophies, reputations, and those they were to serve. Personal wealth and arrogant, entitled administrators are both aberrant and abhorrent.
The current YMCA fiasco in South Toledo is a case-book display of the perversion of it' original mission to the common man. Personal wealth built upon the charitable money of those whom the administrators ostensibly serve is not only distasteful: It is an ethical perversion.
It's time to set an example, here in Toledo. Sweep out the hubris of the present administrators and replace them with the tradition of service and caring, befitting the title of Christian association.
Martha Anne Meeker
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