by Bob Geary
The YWCA on East Hargett Street is a linchpin for the Southeast Raleigh community and has been for 110 years. On Wednesday, the current board of directors of the YWCA of the Greater Triangle abruptly announced that it was laying off the entire staff — not even paying them for work already done. But is that the end of it? Not clear.
[Update: Outraged YWCA staffers wrote an open letter to the YWCA Board of Directors and released it at 6:30 Friday evening. It's copied below. To put it mildly, they think the board is incompetent ... and then some. And they want the Y to be saved from them.]
It would seem, depending on how deeply the YWCA organization is in debt, that a newly constituted board could do a re-start using the Y building.
The Y's supporters are organizing a candlelight vigil at the Y on Sunday at 5:30 p.m., and a community meeting at the Y on Monday at 6:30 p.m., according to Robyn Burge. The address is 554 E. Hargett St. "The hopes are, of course, we would love to see it it brought back to life," Burge said. "We're just calling for community members to show their love and support."
Burge asked that, for the vigil, folks bring signs, art supplies, flowers, candles — and their memories. She was a volunteer at the Y for three years. Her sister is one of the staffers who was let go; Bridgette Burge, was director of advocacy and community initiatives, including the Y's strong racial reconciliation programs.
While the Y programs are shut down, the Y building remains open so that other organizations with leased space in it can continue to use it, Robyn Burge said.
Five years ago, the YWCA organization sold off its much larger building on Oberlin Road near Cameron Village with the stated intention of beefing up programs at the East Hargett Street Y.
What follows is the open letter from YWCA staffers to the YWCA Board of Directors:
March 2nd, 2012
To the YWCA of the Greater Triangle Board of Directors:
We, the undersigned former staff of the YWCA, write to you with heavy hearts, righteous anger, and a call to action.
The manner in which you terminated programs and staff was unconscionable, incompetent, cruel, disrespectful and unjust.
You gave one day’s notice to our community’s elders in the Golden Oaks program, the after school families, pregnant and parenting teens, Healthy Beginning moms, interns, volunteers, and staff. You did not consult program participants or staff. You have no idea what mayhem and heartache you caused. You committed an act of emotional and psychological violence against the very community we all promised to honor and serve.
You left many seniors without their one reliable hot meal for the day. You robbed them of their daily inspiration and camaraderie. You left parents and guardians scrambling to find childcare for their young ones. You shamed the legacy and name of the YWCA, planted seeds of doubt and suspicion, and pulled the rug out from under thousands of community members.
You forgot that this YWCA really belongs to the members and is accountable to the community, particularly in Southeast Raleigh.
We have called for a community meeting on Monday, March 5th at the YWCA at 6:30 pm. Please join us to hear the community’s concerns, questions and suggestions for how to move forward.
This is what we ask of you, for now:
ς Save our programs.
ς Save our jobs.
ς Pay us what you owe us.
ς No matter what, the YWCA building must be saved and used for the good of the
Southeast Raleigh community.
ς Immediately find a space in Southeast Raleigh for the elders to meet every day. Make
sure they get free transportation and a hot, healthy meal. Apologize to them.
ς Find space for the children in the after-school programs. Find transportation for them.
Find donated snacks for them. Apologize to them and their families.
ς Find programs for pregnant and parenting teens in Wake County and women of color at
risk for low-birth weight and infant mortality. Deliver donated goods to them. Apologize to
ς Apologize to the community for your fiscal and ethical negligence. Make amends.
ς Pay your debts starting with staff salaries.
ς Participate in high-quality training about serving on a non-profit Board of Directors, particularly on fiduciary responsibilities and management and fund development.
ς Get high-quality training on equity and anti-oppression.
ς Take responsibility. Help the community fix this.
We respect you as individuals and honor your humanity, but we’re deeply hurt and disgusted by your behavior.
We ask you to take responsibility and accountability for your decisions.
Many YWCA workers would like to have a private meeting with you very soon. With great sadness and high expectations that you will do what is right, we are,