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Merrill Community Center shutting down due to financial woes

Merrill Community Center

Merrill Community Center

The Merrill Community Center (MCC) located in Beloit will be closing its doors on Nov. 1. The community center was founded in 1989 and has been providing programs and services in Beloit for 27 years. It is a nonprofit that mainly serves youth, and senior citizens in the area.

According to the Board president, Terry Harper, the Center was closing “due to lack of sufficient funding”. The Center had been trying to find ways to save the MCC and held a community meeting Oct. 11 to announce the status of the center.

In the meeting, the MCC reported that it needed $156,000, or $13,000 per month in funding to continue operating their programs and to make the facility available to the community in 2017. They also announced that the MCC was running at a deficit this year.

From January through August the total expenses for the Center was $84,384 and their income for the same period was $74,875 meaning that MCC was running at a deficit of $9,509. The Center had set a goal to raise $70,000.

The meeting was held after the center’s solution to their financial issues fell apart. On Aug. 19, it was announced that a merger between the MCC and the Stateline Family YMCA would be occurring with an effective date of Oct. 3. The Board of Directors had voted to approve the merger on Sept. 14.

Residents voiced opposition to the merger after claiming that residents and users of the center were not notified properly about the center’s financial issues and their plan to merge and also question why no alternative were considered. Additionally, there were concerns about the affordability of the MCC if they were be under the YMCA umbrella and whether the center would have to move from its location.

There was a protest Sept. 24 outside the center held by residents who opposed the merger.

Harper stated that the merger was needed due to the economic environment and the center’s shrinking funds. He defended the merger saying “we wanted to join together, and join with someone like us.”

Merrill Community Center

Merrill Community Center

He also said that the YMCA shared values of love, respect and diversity. Their national funding and grant writing resources also could have benefited the MCC and it would have offered access for joint services like child care, at risk youth program, outreach services and sports. Under the merger MCC programs would have been retained for a minimum of three years and the boards would merge. The center would remain fully operational, keep its name, and still serve the local community.

Despite these assurances, the YMCA board voted to back away from the merger on Sept. 26.

At the community meeting residents gave suggestions in how to keep the center afloat. Residents urged others to sign forms committing to pledge $100 a month. Others suggested forming an advisory committee, visiting other non-profit organizations to learn more about fundraising and grant opportunities. Others encouraged asking the city, school district and local churches to commit funds, according to the Beloit Daily News.

Nonetheless, as of Oct. 20, the MCC received annual pledges from people that attended the meeting that amounted to less than $3,000 and $17,000 in grant money had not been received.

“Every day we stay open we are generating bills and adding to our debt. It is not responsible for us to continue operating at a deficit. Even if we had the funds to bring the Center current this year, the financial challenges we consistently faced in the past will continue to be there in 2017 and beyond. The reality of being a non profit organization today is that many small organizations cannot sustain their existence on their own, which is why we chose the merger with the YMCA,” Harper said.

In the statement he also added that, “Due to the merger falling through, this situation put the Merrill Center leadership in a very difficult position with the community who has come to depend on the Center but was not knowledgeable about the detailed costs associated with running it. It also puts us in a precarious position with our major funders who concurred that the merger was the best option for sustainability of our organization.”

Regina Dunkin, the Executive Director of the MCC and other board members will be staying on throughout the closure process and the facility is planned to be sold in order to pay off debts. Any remaining money will be donated to another non profit.

Sources: Beloit Daily News

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