ELKHART — Expect the YMCA signs to soon go away.
After a 131-year run, the YMCA of Elkhart County — headquartered in a big brick building off Jackson Boulevard east of the downtown area — is fading away.
That doesn’t mean the city will be without a Christian-affiliated entity promoting health and development. While the local ties with the YMCA are a thing of the past, a new name is coming, and the facility remains committed to providing the current slate of offerings, perhaps even more.
“Everything goes on as is,” Darrell Peterson, executive director of the organization, said Wednesday, Nov. 13. “It’s only bigger, better, stronger, faster.”
The change — according to a YMCA of Elkhart County ad that was to appear in Thursday’s print edition of The Elkhart Truth — stems from “disagreements over franchise agreements” with the national YMCA. Peterson was available for comment only briefly on Wednesday and didn’t get into the reasons for the change.
Brad McDermott, spokesman at the YMCA of the USA in Chicago, confirmed Wednesday that the local entity is no longer affiliated with the YMCA, per a decision of the national YMCA board. He cited noncompliance with operating guidelines set by the national group but wouldn’t get into specifics.
The reasons behind the action have “been spelled out to them on a number of occasions, so they were aware,” said McDermott. “For the past year or so we’ve been in discussions with the folks of Elkhart about this situation.”
A letter was sent Nov. 6 to local officials informing them of the national body’s determination and within 10 days of receipt, the Elkhart County body was required to stop displaying and using the YMCA name.
Local YMCA entities operate independently of the national organization. But they must comply with standards set at the national level on finances, mission and the qualifications of their directors, among other things, according to McDermott.
NEW NAME, SAME MISSION
Whatever the reason for the rift, Peterson insisted that the services the public has become accustomed to won’t change. Likewise, the memberships of those who belong to the entity won’t be impacted.
The Jackson Boulevard facility houses a swimming pool and weight-lifting equipment and sponsors youth sports leagues and other activities geared to the young and old.
“Just know that whatever our name will be, we will continue to be the organization you have supported and depended on to improve the lives of you and your fellow residents of Elkhart County,” says the Elkhart Truth ad, headlined “New name. Same mission.” The YMCA of Elkhart County was founded in 1882, according to a timeline on the organization’s website, and it moved to the current location at 200 E. Jackson Blvd. in 1973.
Indeed, Peterson, speaking Tuesday before details of the break with the YMCA emerged, said growth may be coming at the Jackson Boulevard location, which absorbed some operations of the Lifeline Youth for Christ program after a fire destroyed Lifeline’s former State Street location.
“We’re definitely going to be doing some renovations,” Peterson said. He didn’t get into details, saying that the planning and talks were in the preliminary stages.