YMCA weighs merger with other branch to improve finances


The YMCA of Anne Arundel County is exploring the possibility of merging with either the Baltimore Metropolitan Area YMCA or the Metro Washington YMCA to strengthen its financial and managerial capabilities.

Dr. Eleanor M. Harris, a member of the Anne Arundel YMCA board of directors, is heading a committee to explore the merger idea. She said she expects her committee to make a recommendation in a few months.

In June, the United Way of Central Maryland canceled its $103,000 annual contribution to the Anne Arundel Y because the organization had trouble balancing its budget.

The national and regional YMCA leadership advocates a merger with the greater Baltimore YMCA. Harold Mezile, the chief executive officer of the Baltimore Metropolitan Area YMCA, said national YMCA officials asked him to represent them in talks promoting the merger.

"We're one national movement and we always have a great concern when one Y has trouble," said Mr. Mezile, who has held national office in the YMCA.

The Baltimore Metropolitan Area YMCA is one of the fastest-growing YMCA organizations in the country, with lTC budget of about $12 million. It represents YMCAs in the city and Baltimore, Howard, Harford and Carroll counties.

Mr. Mezile said it is more logical for Anne Arundel to affiliate with the Baltimore chapter than to join the Washington YMCA, which represents branches in Prince George's and Montgomery counties, the District of Columbia and Northern Virginia.

Chapters of the greater Baltimore division retain some autonomy in program selection, but the Baltimore umbrella provides accountants, computer specialists and other support services, he said.

"We're structured to provide enormous support to each branch member," Mr. Mezile said.

Affiliation with the greater Baltimore division also would benefit club users who would have the option of buying metrowide memberships and using any club in the division, he said.

The United Way cut off funds to the Anne Arundel YMCA after an annual agency review found fault with the YMCA's managerial leadership and its inability to balance its budget.

The YMCA has tried to address the problems by hiring a new management team, and officials say its financial situation is improving.

The YMCA of Anne Arundel operates facilities in Jessup, Glen Burnie and Severna Park, and oversees child-care services in schools.

The branch has 3,000 members, an annual budget of about $1.1 million, and a staff of 140 people, according to Steve Hipley, the operating officer for the Anne Arundel YMCA.

Where once the YMCA was a Christian men's group, it now emphasizes family programs, he said.

"We're trying now to find out what the community wants," Mr. Hipley said. "We try to take care of everybody."

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