ITHACA, N.Y. –– The Ithaca YMCA is making an appeal for new members as it faces an existential threat brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The YMCA started its public push Tuesday, asking for those who have forsaken their memberships to the organization over the last several months to return. According to the Ryan Weese, the YMCA’s Board of Directors chairperson, it is losing $15,000 per month due to lapsing memberships while paying staff members to help keep the the organization running.

From the start of the year to now, the local YMCA’s membership has dropped from 1,568 members to 830 people, magnifying the burden of month-to-month expenses.

“Yes, the YMCA of Ithaca is in danger of closing its doors because of lack of funding,” the announcement said outright. Weese acknowledged that there are other places where people could work out even if the YMCA closes for good, but argued that the Y’s significance to the community should provide extra incentive to the community to make sure it remains open.

“Given these grim circumstances, I implore those members who have previously held memberships and have cancelled due to COVID-19, or the restrictions caused by the pandemic, to reinstate their memberships and help the YMCA of Ithaca,” he said.

The YMCA was initially closed on March 15, as a result of the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic that was just ramping up in New York State at the time. The Y reopened on Aug. 31 after more than five months closed, having met the state’s requirements for workout location reactivation, requiring significant start-up costs to rehire and staff the building.

The Y had also employed a small number of staff members throughout the pandemic in order to maintain the organization’s general operations outside of the gym, leading in part to the Y having to dip into its savings, even as donations kept coming at a certain rate. Weese also lamented that the organization, at the time it was closed due to the pandemic, was coming off of two landmark projects in the repaving of the parking lot and the remodeling of the locker rooms to make them gender-neutral.

Those who want to become members to support the YMCA can do so by contacting the YMCA staff at (607) 257-0101 or by going into the building itself from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. or 2 p.m. to 7 p.m.
“This will ensure that the Y survives these difficult times so that our community will continue to benefit from all the Y has to offer for another 152 years,” Weese wrote in his statement on the matter. “Additional financial support is always welcome. One-time or recurring financial gifts can be made via the Y’s website at ithacaymca.com.”

Matt Butler

Matt Butler is the Education & Public Health Reporter at the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached by email at mbutler@ithacavoice.com