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Y president: We work to heal Baltimore's legacy of inequality and segregation, not exacerbate it

Target will close its store in Mondawmin Mall in February. (Kim Hairston/Baltimore Sun video)

While I certainly don’t know all that went into Target's decision-making process in closing their Mondawmin Mall location, I am profoundly disturbed by Maggie Master's obviously misguided and unfounded description of the Y and her false narrative about how we operate (“The tale of two Targets, a Baltimore segregation story,” Nov. 20). Target is a business that seeks returns for its shareholders; the Y is a charitable, community-based non-profit. We are about building community and helping people, families and neighborhoods improve their well-being.

The Weinberg Y in Waverly was actually the first modern Y built in Central Maryland in a very long time (2004). It attracts wonderful members and employees from a richly diverse set of neighborhoods, including Baltimore’s most challenged and wealthiest. Like all of our Ys, it provides scholarships for those who need help, up to three times the federal poverty level. It is a bustling hub of wellness, youth development, mentoring, volunteerism, early childhood development and community investment for over 12,000 people.

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The writer seems to miss an even larger point. While a major retailer may be withdrawing from West Baltimore, we operate the historic 101 year old Y in Druid Hill, which we have no intention of closing despite the challenges of the neighborhood it serves and the substantial subsidy it requires to remain open.

Additionally, the Y proudly runs Head Start, community school programs, after school, summer enrichment and mentoring programs across the city, raising and securing over $13.5 million in funding for Baltimore's most needy families, kids and seniors.

As to our Orokawa Y in Towson, it was built only a few years ago, replacing a dilapidated building that stood long after the Weinberg Y in Waverly was built. It reflects updated design and member usage patterns that we've incorporated in all of our more recent projects. It’s actually somewhat smaller and cost less to build and doesn’t have some amenities found at the Weinberg Y in Waverly, including a modern turf sports field (funded and built by the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation) and a bustling Early Childhood Center that melds Head Start with traditional preschool programming. The programming, quality and community engagement is the same at both of those Ys, and in all of our Ys around the region.

One more thing. We are in the midst of a $16 million capital campaign to do a massive update to the Weinberg Y in Waverly, to the Druid Hill Y and to build a brand new Y at the Cardinal Gibbons site in Southwest Baltimore. I don't think we would be doing any of that if we weren’t deeply invested in and committed to the well-being of the good people and neighborhoods the city of Baltimore.

It’s important to get one’s facts straight before associating a 164 year old organization engaged in helping our city with the awful attitudes of white supremacy, racism and oppression. Those things clearly exist in our city and society, but they are anathema to the Y’s values, mission and purpose.

John K. Hoey, Towson

The writer is president and CEO of The Y in Central Maryland.

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