More than 40 protesters stood outside of the Mason YMCA Wednesday morning, yelling “Save our Y!” and “Don’t Kill our Y!”
The protesters were members of the Mason facility and opposed to the impending closure of that branch. The Metro Board of the YMCA of Memphis & the Mid-South recently decided to close the Mason YMCA on Dec. 31st.
Many of the patrons held signs that read, “Metro Board is the Grinch,” “Save our Mason YMCA,” and “Don’t Leave the Heart of Memphis.”
Lucy Loveless said she’s been coming to the Mason Y for 50 years. She currently attends water exercise classes at the facility, which she says helps with her back pains.
“I feel the board did not represent us, and I think what they’re telling us is a bunch of malarkey,” Loveless said. “We can’t move to more suburban areas. We’re all on fixed incomes.”
The Mason YMCA is the only branch in the inner city. After it closes, the nearest facilities will be in East Memphis and downtown.
This is frustrating to some Mason YMCA members, many whom are of older age or have disabilities.
Loveless said she doesn’t know if she’ll travel to another YMCA once the Mason facility closes.
“I can’t drive anymore, so I have to depend on somebody to bring me and this is the closest one. I would have to pay somebody to drive me there. I’m between a rock and a hard place,” Loveless said.
The decision to close the Mason facility was disclosed in October.
Keith Johnson wasn’t available to comment on the protest, but a month prior he said the decision to close the Mason YMCA was strictly economical.
Johnson said the board made the decision to close the facility after conducting a study on the building that revealed a need for $2.6 million in repairs, and an additional $2 to $3 million to bring it up to YMCA standards.
Prior to the protest, YMCA board members refused to speak with protesters about keeping the facility open.
William Higgins, who has been coming to the Mason YMCA since he was a kid, said he’s offended that they wouldn’t meet with members.
“They’re not going to talk to us, but they don’t forget to take the money out of [our] bank accounts every month,” Higgins said.
Ultimately, protesters emphasized that they felt betrayed by the sudden closing of the Mason YMCA. Many doubted they would continue their memberships.
“I think the YMCA has violated a mutual trust, not just in closing it, but in the way in which it’s been done,” said James Duke, a member of the Mason YMCA for four years. “Should I transfer allegiance somewhere else in the YMCA? I don’t think so. I think they’ve violated my trust enough.”