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COVID-19 leads to closure of Lakeshore Family YMCA

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published May 26, 2020

 The YMCA of Metropolitan Detroit announced that it would be permanently closing the Lakeshore Family YMCA, 23401 E. Jefferson Ave., as of May 15.

The YMCA of Metropolitan Detroit announced that it would be permanently closing the Lakeshore Family YMCA, 23401 E. Jefferson Ave., as of May 15.

Photo by Kristyne E. Demske

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ST. CLAIR SHORES — For Kaitlyn Sniezyk, the Lakeshore Family YMCA was like a second home.

The St. Clair Shores teacher and mother of two started working at the “Y” during her senior year at South Lake High School and continued on at the childcare center and as a summer camp counselor through her college years.

She met her husband, Tony Sniezyk, there. He worked at the front desk and as a summer camp counselor, as well. When they had their first child, AJ, they didn’t even have to think about where to send him to daycare. Up until March 2020, the now-2-year-old had been attending the Lakeshore Family YMCA child care center. He began there at 11 weeks of age. His brother, Parker, who is not yet 1, began attending when he was four months old.

The COVID-19 pandemic led to the temporary shuttering of the YMCA of Metropolitan Detroit locations, in accordance with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s Stay Home, Stay Safe executive order. And as of mid-May, the YMCA announced that it would be permanently closing the Lakeshore Family YMCA, 23401 E. Jefferson Ave., as well as the Livonia Family YMCA.

“After they announced that they closed, I realized that I have never had to take my kids into a place or leave them with anyone I didn’t know,” Sniezyk said. “I knew half the people who worked there, so now, as a not-brand-new mom anymore, I’m going to have that experience of finding a place and going in blind.”

In a press release statement, Helene Weir, President & CEO of the YMCA of Metropolitan Detroit, said that the two branches were not financially sustainable and had been operating as deficit operations for nearly a decade. Over the past 10 years, she said that Lakeshore Family YMCA has lost $630,000, and the Livonia Family YMCA has lost $1.2 million.

“Lakeshore is a rental property, and both branches do not have a large enough membership base to make them viable,” stated Weir.

As of its closing, the Lakeshore Family YMCA, which also offered recreation programs and health-and-fitness classes, had 525 members and 71 children in its daycare center. Of those memberships, 224 were insurance-based memberships, which typically cover less than half of the membership dues, according to Latitia McCree, senior vice president of communications and marketing for YMCA of Metropolitan Detroit. The Lakeshore Family YMCA paid $60,000 in annual rent for its facility at St. Lucy Catholic Church.

The Livonia Family YMCA had 2,133 members, of which 1,062 were insurance-based memberships.

Members at both centers will receive a free membership for the remainder of 2020 to use at any of the eight other locations in Auburn Hills, Birmingham, Detroit, Southgate, Farmington, Mount Clemens, Milford and Royal Oak.

McCree said that the YMCA will be doing a “test run” of a childcare center in Farmington in about two weeks.

“When we open things up that we legally can open up, we’re going to do (it) one at a time,” she said in an interview May 18. “I know the distance and location are, maybe, a challenge, (but) once we reopen, (members) will get a free membership to any one of the YMCA (locations).”

McCree said that when childcare facilities reopen, families from Lakeshore and Livonia will be offered a 20% discount at the location of their choice through the remainder of 2020. The two locations nearest to St. Clair Shores are the Boll Family YMCA, 1401 Broadway, in Detroit, and the Macomb Family YMCA, 10 North River Road, in Mount Clemens.

The Boll Family YMCA has an early childhood center like the Lakeshore Family YMCA offered, and both Macomb and Boll provide summer day camps, McCree said. Whether day camps will be offered in the summer of 2020 remains to be seen.

McCree said that the YMCA is waiting for further direction from the state as to how and whether it will be able to proceed with summer camp.

Sniezyk said she’s disappointed that her sons won’t be able to “grow up there” like the children she remembers caring for.

“Ever since I started working there, it just always felt like a second home,” she said. “I’ve made so many of my closest friends from the ‘Y,’ so it’s always just felt like it was there.

“There’s kids who are (teens now) that I took care of since they were Parker’s age. I’ve seen those kids, literally, grow up, so it’s disappointing that my kids won’t get their turn.”

McCree said that, as an organization, the YMCA of Metropolitan Detroit had been able to subsidize the Lakeshore Family YMCA and the Livonia Family YMCA, even though they were losing money. The COVID-19 pandemic compounded the problem, however.

“We don’t have the capacity anymore to do it,” McCree said. “They may have been going to close eventually anyway, but this made it happen faster.”

Throughout the state Stay Home, Stay Safe order, the YMCA has been distributing food to those in need. The Lakeshore Family YMCA site provided four days of meals per child from 2:30 to 3 p.m. on Mondays and Fridays. That will not stop, McCree said.

“We’re not abandoning the community,” she said.

Weir said that the YMCA is developing a sustainable revitalization plan. Prior to the pandemic, the organization served more than 70,000 men, women and children each year.

“We are hopeful that our YMCA can stabilize and recuperate from losses compounded by COVID-19 and its residual fallouts,” she said in a statement. “Our sole aim is to have a financially strong YMCA able to meet growing community needs.”

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