SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) – After 75 years, the Sarasota YMCA was about to shut its doors, but in the span of just a few weeks, the Sarasota community came together to save a beloved institution.
Now, the branches have a bright future.
This truly was a rescue orchestrated by the community. When the members learned their time here was up, they went to action.
Last month, the announcement came without warning; the two branches of the Sarasota YMCA were closing.
The organization was $4 million in debt, and memberships were plummeting. The fitness centers were set to close in September.
Seemingly overnight, a grassroots effort bloomed, and on Wednesday it was announced the branches have been saved.
“Its not just the Y membership, it’s the whole community,” Jim Becherer with Save Our Y said. “I was in fundraising all my life and I have never seen anything like this.”
Thanks to investors and donations from hard working people, the branches will remain open.
A new organization, called ‘The Sarasota Y’, will run the fitness centers with an entirely new board.
“Everyone in this community shares in this triumph,” said longtime member Estelle Holly.
That’s because there was so much at stake.
These are more than just fitness centers. They serve people of all ages and save lives; just ask 84-year-old Tony Capparella.
“I had a stroke two and a half years ago,” Capparella said.
For him, this YMCA was vital.
“That [indoor running] track, using it saved my life, it taught me how to walk again,” he said.
Organizers want to increase membership and improve the facilities. They’re hoping to raise roughly $2 million by next summer, but for now, they’re happy to keep the doors open.
A celebration rally will be held at the YMCA Berlin campus on Thursday at 6 p.m.