Editorials

The Y, a preschool and a vital mission

The Observer editorial board

The YMCA wants a low-income preschool out of its building.
The YMCA wants a low-income preschool out of its building. jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

The YMCA of Greater Charlotte racked up a $7.2 million surplus in 2013. It can afford to spend $20 million gussying up one of its branches. It can afford to pay its president $443,000 a year.

But it can’t afford the relatively small amount it would take to sustain a valuable program that directly helps it fulfill its mission.

The YMCA announced ambitious plans Monday to renovate the Dowd Y on East Morehead Street. The Y will spend $20 million creating such things as more gym space, new office space and more parking.

Meanwhile, across town, the Y has told a preschool for low-income kids that it has to vacate the Y-owned building it calls home. The Learning Collaborative must be out by next year.

Finding a new location isn’t easy. The preschool, after all, doesn’t have the balance sheet that the Y does. And with low-income families as its client base, the Learning Collaborative needs to stay in a low-income ZIP code or risk losing grant money.

To be sure, the Y owns the building and legally can do as it pleases with it. But the history of the place is important. It was built in 1996 with donations from the community, including from the Junior League, Thompson Child and Family Focus and an effort called Success By 6.

It was built not as just another YMCA facility but specifically to help low-income children. Thompson leased it for years before the Learning Collaborative moved in. The intent was that the space would be dedicated to helping underprivileged kids in perpetuity. But advocates apparently failed to get that in writing.

The Y now says it will use the space for its own programs for low-income children, and it has shown admirable dedication to such work. Yet it is unbending in its insistence that the Learning Collaborative and its 64 preschoolers get out.

The Y is a nonprofit whose mission is “to put Christian principles into practice through programs that build healthy spirit, mind and body for all.” Its values are “caring, honesty, respect, responsibility, faith.” Its focus is “nurturing the potential of every child and teen” and “giving back and providing support to our neighbors.”

The Y and the Learning Collaborative should be able to come together on a compromise that allows the preschool to continue its crucial work.

Until one is struck, donors big and small should consider helping the Learning Collaborative with their gifts. The Y should help, too, and not force donors to make a choice.

Correction

An editorial Sunday about the N.C. Senate’s jobs plan misstated the status of the state's rural regional economic development partnerships. Two have merged; two others continue operating.

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