Camp YMCA to merge

Published 8:25 am Friday, June 19, 2009

FRANKLIN—After flirting with the idea for several years, the James L. Camp Jr. YMCA will officially merge with the regional YMCA of South Hampton Roads on July 1.

Representatives from both parties said Tuesday that the decision to merge made fiscal sense and would benefit the City of Franklin and neighboring Southampton County, communities that have been served by the Camp YMCA since 1955.

“They have been an incredibly successful operation in Tidewater,” Carter Hotchkiss, president of the board of directors for the Camp YMCA, said of the South Hampton Roads group. “They know what they’re doing, and they do it right.”

Meanwhile, William George, chief operating officer for YMCA of South Hampton Roads, said his group was thrilled to have the Camp YMCA aboard.

“We believe strongly that our entire community is connected,” George said. “We wanted to expand from being predominantly the best health and fitness network of facilities in the area to the roots and history that Franklin has in programming. This YMCA has a great heritage. The opportunity for us to network, learn and grow and bring the heritage of this YMCA into all of our branches is one of the driving forces (behind the merger).”

It is not the first time the Camp YMCA has contemplated merging with its regional neighbor, which will now have 13 family centers and eight specialized facilities. Hotchkiss said discussions about a possible merger took place in 1993 and 2000, but ultimately the Camp YMCA’s board decided to keep their facility independent.

But times have changed.

“From our perspective, there are many benefits that we’re getting,” Hotchkiss said, adding that first and foremost the merger would secure the future of the Camp YMCA.

“It’s a very challenging time for us and our communities, with the economy being the way it is,” Hotchkiss said. He added that the merger “gives us a strong anchor” because it would be an opportunity to not only increase the staff but to also further educational opportunities. Associates could possibly be sent in from other branches in South Hampton Roads to address any staffing shortages.

The membership at the Camp YMCA will also benefit, Hotchkiss said.

“This gives our membership a great opportunity, for a very legitimate price, to (visit) their other YMCAs,” Hotchkiss said. A reciprocal agreement with the Peninsula Metropolitan YMCA group will also allow members to visit that group’s 15 branches, including the Luter Family YMCA in Smithfield.

Current members will have the option, between now and Dec. 31, to maintain their membership at the Camp YMCA only, or for a monthly price increase can visit the other branches in the South Hampton Roads group. New members who sign up on or after July 1 will automatically be members of the entire group.

“It’s a modest increase (to the cost of membership),” Hotchkiss said. “We want to encourage everyone to do this because it’s such a great opportunity.”

The merger will have an immediate impact on the facilities at the Camp YMCA.

“We knew we would have to be doing a significant capital campaign to upgrade our facilities here in 2009, 2010 and 2011,” Hotchkiss said. “We needed their guidance and their help in rejuvenating our YMCA. They’re anxious in helping us and guiding us to help raise the money. They don’t give us the money; we raise the money.”

Some of the proposed improvements include renovation to the building’s front halls, the floors of the basketball gyms and the jacuzzi. There is also a possibility that the locker rooms could be updated.

George said the regional group, as a practice, uses four dollars from every membership fee to help pay for upgrades to its fitness equipment every three years.

“That’s really the theory of ‘all for one and one for all,’” George said.

The James L. Camp Jr. YMCA was chartered in

December 1955 and began offering programs in June 1956. Its current facility on Crescent Drive was built in 1970 and has been expanded several times.

Meanwhile, the YMCA of South Hampton Roads is the ninth-largest membership YMCA in the nation. Its history dates back to Norfolk in 1895 and now serves an area that stretches from the Eastern Shore of Virginia to the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

Elliott Whitfield, a longtime supporter of the Camp YMCA and another member of its board of directors, said the merger was a good decision.

“I very strongly feel that the decision made by the YMCA board is the right move, to ensure the success of the YMCA for what we hope will be at least the next 50 years,” Whitfield said Wednesday. “It was time to make the decision to merge.”

He added, “We’re very pleased that we selected YMCA of South Hampton Roads. They offer a lot of things that a standalone YMCA just can’t simply do on its own. They’ve got a great organization. There’s a lot of synergies that they can provide that we feel will help us in the long run.”