Activists organize to fight pottstown ymca closure gas hydrates ppt


POTTSTOWN >> Everything from seeking help from Philadelphia Eagles players to staging a protest outside the Philadelphia-Freedom Valley YMCA headquarters in Conshohocken is on the table as a growing crowd of community groups continue to work to prevent the closure of the YMCA next month.

In response to what they termed in a press release as “a broken promise by the Philadelphia Freedom Valley YMCA (PFVYMCA) to follow up with local NAACP leaders,” in the wake of a May 7 meeting, activists met last week and decided to step up their efforts.

About 50 people from various groups — including the Pottstown NAACP, Pottstown Police Department, Pottstown School Board, members of the disbanded YMCA Task Force, an individual who collected more than 1,200 signatures for a petition condemning the closure of the YMCA and group of community members who then organized the “Save the Pottstown YMCA” Facebook group to continue putting pressure on PFVYMCA — all met Wednesday at YWCA Tri-County Area to coordinate their efforts.

Although many local municipal, school and civic boards have passed resolutions in support of keeping the Pottstown YMCA open, the group has decided to launch a blitz of letters and requests to area churches, PFVYMCA board members, YMCA donors, community groups, police chiefs, educators and others to ask for their support and enlist their help in the organizing effort.

Many of these groups – especially those that provide summer programs – will see an influx of youth and others after the Pottstown Y closes and will have to figure out how to accommodate everyone, said Bishop Everett Debnam, Senior Pastor of Invictus Ministries and Second Vice President of the Pottstown NAACP.

Ever since the decision to close the Pottstown YMCA in June was announced, local leaders have become increasingly alarmed about the potential effect on the community’s children, especially given that in the summer, they will have few other places to go for structured, safe activities.

”I’m very concerned about the growth and development of our community,” said Shona Williams, a Pottstown resident. “We need to hold them accountable. This is a trend, for them to be lifting services from lower-income communities and directing more funds and attention to wealthier communities. We want it to stop right now, right here, in Pottstown.”

Williams read a letter from Lower Pottsgrove Police Chief Michael A. Foltz, who said that he was hopeful the Pottstown Y could remain open at least through the summer, “to accommodate those that have been dependent on summer programs.” Otherwise, he said, the closing could create “a social strain on our communities that may result in increased criminal activity and/or juvenile delinquency.”

Johnny Corson, president of the local chapter of the NAACP, told the group that PFVYMCA president and CEO Shaun Elliott had promised at a meeting with the group on May 7 to call him back the next day to follow up. But Elliott never called, Corson said, adding, “At this point, I don’t think he’s going to.”

Lawrence said she worked for the Y for 10 years and “Philadelphia-Freedom Valley YMCA does not treat its employees very well, and I’m not sure they will ever do what’s right for Pottstown. I hope some of the energy from this group will be put into looking for other solutions,” she told Williams.

School board member John Armato said “the community is being hurt by ‘corporate’ decisions being made by ‘so-called nonprofits’ like Philadelphia-Freedom Valley YMCA and Tower Health,” whose removal of Pottstown Hospital from the tax rolls accounts for a revenue loss of more than $1 million, more than the budget gap driving a tax hike of 2.5 percent in Pottstown.