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North Central Florida YMCA Raises Money In Efforts To Stay Afloat

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If the YMCA closes its doors, Joan Fischer said she would cry.

A 20-year member, Fischer started swimming there five days a week when she stopped being able to run.

“I need a place to swim for the rest of my life,” the 82-year-old said.

Joan Fischer, 82, swims in the YMCA pool on Monday. The 20-year member said she would cry if the center closes.
Joan Fischer, 82, swims in the YMCA pool on Monday. The 20-year member said she would cry if the center closes. (Emma Green/WUFT News)

The North Central Florida YMCA, located at 5201 NW 34th Boulevard, is drowning in debt and paddling to stay afloat. The YMCA’s goal is to hit $1.5 million in donations to get into the green, but the minimum amount needed to keep its doors open is $1.2 million. As of now they are $352,000 short.

The most recent fundraiser last Saturday featured auctions and fitness classes and raised $11,000 in on-hand cash for the center. Pledges, or donations that have not yet been collected, total $837,000, and CEO John Bonacci is talking to large donors to fill the gap.

“We’re desperate to keep it open,” Fischer said. “If I had the money, I would give it to them immediately.”

A donation bar in the YMCA that measures progress towards the $1.2 million goal to get out of debt and evade foreclosing. The community center needs to raise $352,000 more by Jan. 31.

Already granted one extension to raise the money by the end of the month, Bonacci said it is unlikely that the YMCA will be able to get another.

The YMCA’s 5,000 members would lose access to after-school program for their children, wellness facilities and the SilverSneakers program for seniors if the center were to close.

“The grassroots efforts that we’ve seen from the members that come here and use the facility has been absolutely amazing. Our pledges from our members is about $237,000, and that’s over 300 people digging deep. These are not the most affluent people in town in most cases. These are just people who are putting their money where their heart is.”

Bob Kerckel, a 78-year-old retired pharmacist, pledged $50, but said he plans to double it and may even renew his membership months in advance to give the YMCA more money.  If he loses his payment, he said he doesn’t care.

“The Y is worth it,” he said. “I’m willing to do my part.”

Kerckel said he looked all over town for a gym that fit his needs and settled on the YMCA because of its friendly atmosphere and the older equipment that he understands.

“If this place stays open, I’m going to stay with them through the duration,” he said.

About Emma Green

Emma Green is a reporter for WUFT News and can be reached at 305-965-0447 or greenemma@ufl.edu.

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