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Published: 7/27/2009

YMCA site in South Toledo to be closed; facility to be handed to CedarCreek Church

BY JC REINDL
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Facing a funding shortfall, the YMCA and Jewish Community Center of Greater Toledo plans to close its South Toledo branch and give the property to CedarCreek Church.

The decision has irritated some neighbors and longtime YMCA members, who were surprised and distraught Sunday to learn about the planned closing.

I am not a happy camper right now, said Mark Hertzfeld of Harvard Boulevard, a retired firefighter and a member of the Y branch for nearly 30 years. I feel somewhat betrayed by the Y that I have supported for decades.

Robert Alexander, YMCA/JCC president and chief executive officer, said last night in a statement that the YMCA/JCC plans to close the South Toledo branch at 1226 Woodsdale Park Drive, near the Anthony Wayne Trail, because of fund cuts in the new state budget.

The cuts are in the Early Learning Initiative program that provides preschool for low-income children. This includes a $1.5 million contract that helped fund Y Child Care.

The YMCA/JCC, which operates 11 Toledo-area branches, plans to shutter the early learning program. The number of children served and the sites affected could not be ascertained last night.

The YMCA/JCC trimmed about $800,000 from its current budget because of the downturn in the local economy and the nation s financial markets, Mr. Alexander said.

The YMCA/JCC had a $33.3 million budget in 2008, and government contracts made up 14 percent of total revenue, according to the organization s annual report.

It has reached a tentative agreement to turn over the South Toledo branch facility at no charge to the nondenominational CedarCreek Church, which hopes to open a satellite church there for 500 worshippers. Plans have been made to convert the YMCA into a church at a cost of $1.5 million to $2 million, according to the Rev. Lee Powell, senior pastor at CedarCreek.

However, the deal hinges on whether the city of Toledo can provide the church with at least 380 parking spaces, he said.

If we couldn t use some of those parking spaces, then it wouldn t work for us to put the church there, Mr. Powell said, adding he hopes the church could open by late 2010.

To meet the CedarCreek s requirements, the city is considering options such as parceling out sections of nearby Woodsdale Park or giving the church exclusive access to the park s parking space for weekend services, said City Councilman D. Michael Collins, who represents the area.

Church representatives are to meet with city officials this week to discuss the matter.

The YMCA/JCC s restructuring plan is expected to save it $1 million a year. Up to eight full-time positions and 50 part-time positions would be eliminated, and 10 staff members would be reassigned.

Reached by phone last night, Mr. Alexander said more details of the restructuring plan and the CedarCreek deal would be announced today. It was unclear when the YMCA branch would close.

Barbara Tighe of Winston Boulevard said her family has exercised at the South Toledo Y for nearly 15 years. Her youngest daughter, who has special needs, has gone swimming in its pool with the same teacher for past 10 years.

I m not sure what will happen with that now, Mrs. Tighe said.

Mr. Hertzfeld said he swims at the Y s pool four to five days a week. When the branch closes, he doesn t expect to renew his membership.

Mr. Powell said the church was approached by the YMCA/JCC about the property about four months ago. Although CedarCreek has a Toledo satellite site near the intersection of Douglas Road and Sylvania Avenue, it is seeking to attract worshippers from the city s large unchurched population.

We re trying to reach a person that doesn t [already] go to church, Mr. Powell said. We feel led by God to be in that part of town.

The church, with its main campus in Perrysburg Township, has about 15,000 total members.

Mr. Collins, a candidate for mayor, said he supports the YMCA/JCC and CedarCreek plan because he believes a vibrant church would be better for the neighborhood than a vacant building. I think the deal is fair and equitable, and I will do everything in my power to see that it s accomplished, he said.

When the South Toledo branch closes, its health and fitness programs will move to the Morse Center, a YMCA-operated facility on the University of Toledo s Health Science campus, the former Medical College of Ohio. The branch s child-care services will move to Faith Lutheran Church on South Avenue and to the Calvary Assembly of God on Glendale Avenue.

The gymnastics program will relocate to the YMCA Super Sports Zone in Perrysburg, and the swim team will relocate to the Eastern Community YMCA. In addition, aquatics and some youth sports programs will go to the Wolf Creek YMCA on Holland Sylvania Road.

Contact JC Reindl at:jreindl@theblade.comor 419-724-6065.



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