After 100 years of operating on its own, the Heritage YMCA has now merged with the YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago. The Heritage Group began in downtown Naperville in 1911 with the opening of the Naperville YMCA, currently called the Kroehler YMCA. The group now also includes the Fry YMCA and the Sports Complex, both in Naperville, as well as Aurora and Oswego Y facilities.
The announcement comes after more than a year of talks between the two groups. Local Y leaders say the move will help the group more effectively meet its goals and improve services for all members.
“It just seemed best as business becomes more technical, more challenging, as the economy becomes something other than it was,” said Tom Beerntsen, the former CEO of the Heritage YMCA group. Beerntsen is now the Vice President of Association and Development for the Chicago YMCA. “This is an opportunity to make our organization stronger and the way we do it is by coming together with an organization that’s larger.”
The Chicago Y will absorb the Heritage Y into its $80,000,000 annual budget. Combining assets allows the Kroehler and Fry YMCAs to plan capital improvements such as new locker facilities.
“As a smaller organization, sometimes you want to put on a new roof or you want to buy new equipment [and] you can’t afford it,” said Matt Gambs, Board Chairman for the former Heritage YMCA group. “This allows us a path to where these things are possible.”
The Chicago Y accepts not only all the assets from the Heritage Group, but also all its debt. Gambs says the group’s debt was one factor board members considered while weighing the merger decision.
“If debt’s an issue or capital constrictions or anything you do, you [have] to make sure the organization survives,” said Gambs. “With this merger, that happens. Our future is now pretty solid.”
The merger comes during the 100th anniversary of downtown Naperville’s Kroehler YMCA. The celebration later this year will go on as planned.
“The loss of our autonomy doesn’t mean we’re going to do business any differently or it’s going to weaken us in any way,” said Beerntsen.
Local Y leaders hope the new partnership will preserve Kroehler YMCA as a community asset for another century.
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