YMCAs in Waukegan and Vernon Hills to close Oct. 31
Lake County Family YMCA plans to close the Waukegan branch on Oct. 31, as well as the Vernon Hills branch. | File photo
For more information
on the Lake County Family YMCA and its scheduled closure, visit www.ymcalakecounty.org.
Updated: December 3, 2012 1:36AM
Local YMCA members are expressing shock and disappointment at the Y’s announcement that it will close both its branches — in Waukegan and Vernon Hills — effective Oct. 31.
The YMCA, which has operated in Waukegan for 100 years, cited “insufficient financial resources to sustain operations on a long-term basis” as the reason for the closure in its announcement Friday. Childcare programs will remain operational until Nov. 21.
Rev. Gehl Devore, 96, of Waukegan, who has been a member of the Waukegan Y since the mid-1960s when it operated in a landmark building at County and Clayton in downtown Waukegan, said he and his wife Doris, 91, use the Y’s pool three times a week.
“I’m just very sorry a fine agency will be gone,” Devore said. “I knew they had some financial problems, but I wasn’t sure how serious they were.”
Waukegan Township Supervisor Patricia Jones, another longtime Y member, and Waukegan Mayor Robert Sabonjian, a former member, both said they were taken by surprise at the announcement. Sabonjian said the city had been neither notified of the Y’s financial problems nor asked for help.
“If we had known perhaps five or six months ago, maybe we could have rallied support,” Sabonjian said.
Jones, whose 84-year-old mother walks on the Y’s indoor track and whose grandchildren rely on the Y’s summer camp and other programs, called the closure a “blow” to the community.
“It’s just terrible,” Jones said. “Generations have counted on the Y for fun, fitness, child care and as a social outlet. It’s a huge loss for members and for staff who will lose their jobs — many who live in Waukegan.”
The two Ys, Central Lake, 700 Lakeview Parkway, Vernon Hills, constructed in 2001, and the Northern Lake, 2000 Western Ave., which opened in 1987, employ a combined 132 people — 34 full-time and 98 part-time.
Lake County Family YMCA Board Chair Diane Fleming said in a statement that the Y reduced operating costs and implemented measures to increase membership and contributed income.
“We also reached out extensively to a variety of potential community partners to try to find a solution,” Fleming said. “But in the end, the impact of the economic downturn on our operations proved too difficult to overcome.”
Both branches offered before- and after-school child care, seeing after a total of 155 children. The Vernon Hills branch also operates a Child Development Center for infants and toddlers up to age 5 and the Waukegan Y operates Y-Pals for children ages 3-5 at the Waukegan Baptist Church, 1500 Sunset Ave. The YMCA is compiling a list of local childcare providers to help parents make the transition.
“Our hearts go out to the families as they seek alternative childcare,” Fleming said. “We have provided affordable and quality programs for the Lake County community for many years, and we’re sorry to be unable to continue to do so.”
The Ys also sponsored two swim teams for 64 young swimmers and a plethora of fitness programs. Last spring, the agency announced the relinquishment of a federal grant for its Early Head Start program, which it ceased operating in July. Camp Jorn, the popular YMCA summer camp in Manitowish Waters, Wis., became an independent Y in 2007.