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YMCA Bounces Checks as Finances Flounder

Building the Temecula facility drained the nonprofit organization's reserve funds, and it has been surviving paycheck-to-paycheck ever since.


Building a facility in Temecula drained the YMCA's savings, and it has been struggling to pay the bills ever since.

YMCA employees' pay checks have been bouncing for several months, and some employees have gone two pay cycles without being paid, according to several YMCA workers.

"The first pay day of August, the pay checks started to bounce," said Taylor Cahill, a former aquatic supervisor at the Temecula facility, via an email. "When September came, pay checks were still bouncing, and staff members were starting to get kicked out of their (apartments), homes and condos because they couldn't pay rent."

The checks did bounce, but not because of mismanagement, said Jackie Fielder, the CEO of the YMCA of Riverside City and County, which owns and runs the Temecula facility at ‪29119 Margarita Road‬.

The checks were bouncing because building the Temecula facility drained the nonprofit's coffers, she said in an interview Monday.

"It strapped the organization. It just strapped it," she said.

The $4.8 million facility lost money by the tens of thousands since it first opened in May of 2009, and only this year has it showed signs of economic viability, Fielder said.

It lost $45,000 a month during its first two fiscal years, and in its third fiscal year, it lost $25,000 a month, Fielder said.

Today, the facility is in black ink -- just barely, according to Fielder. "It's pretty much at the break even point. Some months we lose $500, some months we make $500."

Building goes up, economy goes down
The organization committed to building the facility before the economy crashed and much of their funding disappeared, Fielder said.

The nonprofit runs on a combination of membership fees, government grants and donations, each of which was affected by the economy.

The Y's goal is to keep residents healthy, regardless of how much money they have. It does this by giving scholarships to members who cannot pay, and the government, donations and fees paid by other members make this possible, said Brian Herbertson, the local YMCA's marketing director.

When the economy tanked, the number of paying members shrank, the number of scholarship members grew, and donations grew scarce, he said.

"The need for our services has skyrocketed while our donations aren't what we would like them to be," he said on Monday.

The organization's facility in Hemet is the most extreme example, with 85 percent of the membership getting full or partial grants, Herbertson said.

YMCA of Riverside City and County runs four facilities: the flagship location in Riverside, one in Hemet, a childcare-only facility in Jurupa and the Temecula facility.

The local YMCA has a charter with the national organization, but when it comes to finances, it runs independently from the national organization, said Jessica Wylie, a spokesperson for the national YMCA organization.

The domino effect of bouncing checks
YMCA employees' paychecks began to bounce on Sept. 13, just after several school districts fell behind on their payments to the YMCA, Fielder said.

The Y contracted to provide after-school services for three districts: Alvord Unified, Perris Elementary and Riverside Unified. The state fell behind in their payments to the schools, so the schools fell behind in paying the Y, Fielder said.

So the nonprofit was unable to pay its employees, and more than 200 checks bounced, Fielder said.

Around this time, a hiccup in paperwork stopped the state from sending $65,000 a month in reimbursements for providing childcare services, Fielder said.

Fielder does not want to blame the state or districts, she said. "We should have been in a position to be able to front (that money) for 45 days," she said. "Our reserves went out the door after we built that Temecula facility."

Schools put in "very, very difficult situation"
The Y had employees working at Perris elementary schools without being paid, which put school officials in a bad position, said Virniecia Green-Jordan, the president of the Perris board of trustees.

"It put us in a very, very difficult situation," she said.

When checks started bouncing, the YMCA employees came to the Perris Board of Trustees and complained. "They didn't get paid for two paychecks, so they came to us," she said. "It was absolutely ugly."

The YMCA notified the district in December that it would cease offering services, Green-Jordan said. About 80 students at each school suddenly had no after-school programs.

"The parents were upset, they came to the school board meeting," the board president said. "It was very, very short notice."

School officials were furious, she said. "We contracted with the Y to provide that service. We were on time. We had already paid the contract. We did not know that the employees that worked at our school had not been paid."

Cutting losses
Paychecks have been bouncing ever since September, though the organization always paid them -- albeit late -- and reimbursed workers for the bounced-check fees, Fielder said.

Around that time, the Y cut 315 people from its payroll in an attempt to get finances under control, which saved the organization $250,000 a month.

The organization's higher-ups are not immune. Fielder at one point went three pay cycles without being paid. "My checks don't bounce because I don't cash them. I wait until everybody else is paid," she said. "It hasn't been easy for anyone." She also recently took a 15 percent pay cut.

The bouncing checks hit the employees hardest, and many, like Cahill, the former aquatics supervisor, had to leave the organization, he said.

"Many of the staff that have left cared so much about the members and the kids that came through the YMCA every day. Many of the staff taught the kids how to swim and just formed amazing connections," he said. "They have destroyed many of the staff's lives."

The burden of a building
Putting up the Temecula facility was not a good idea in hindsight, Fielder said.

The Y paid to put up the building, but the City of Temecula owns the land. This presents a unique problem, Fielder said. Selling the facility is almost impossible, because nobody would buy a multi-million dollar building on somebody else's land.

"The only people who could buy it are another YMCA (chartered organization), or the city," Fielder said.

Fielder was promoted to CEO in 2010 -- Robert Coleman was the CEO when the Temecula facility opened -- and she has been dealing with the problems the facility created ever since.

She feels the organization's leadership got swept up in the euphoria of expanding, she said. "It feels good to build a new facility," she said. "I think we grew too big, too fast."

Now, the organization has no choice but to keep the doors open and make this facility work, she said.

Keeping the faith
Despite all the hardship, Fielder believes the organization's problems will soon be over, she said. "We're a faith-based organization, and I have faith," she said, her eyes welling with tears.
This realization hit her last week during a Good Friday breakfast at the Riverside facility.

The nonprofit provides meals for the needy every year on that day, and usually she books 49 tables. This year -- due to demand -- she booked 66 tables.

"The place was slammed," she said. "I wondered whether this is ever going to get better. Then I looked out into that sea of people… and you have to know, everything's going to be OK."

Steven John April 22, 2012 at 07:39 PM
Jackie Fiedler may have taken a 15 percent cut in her pay but she put her husband on the payroll for as VP of healthy living. (whatever that means) Mike Jaime has his wife on the payroll as director of the Hemet Branch. He say he is happy about everything. They laid off 315 people, but there are still the same group of brass working at the Riverside Y with various titles. In fact they just hired a pool director. Go to their website and you will find 16 people , many with hard to decipher titles. Do you really think they are all needed? Somewhere around 70 percent of our money goes for payroll but it isn't for the peons who work split shifts for less than 20 or 30 hours. Then their paycheck bounces.
Steven John April 22, 2012 at 08:05 PM
Jackie has been around for awhile. She was first hired as a grant hunter by Mark Malic. She was involved in the scandal that sent Jean Cross to prison for 6 years. She claims she was a victim, but the YMCA was to get 18 of the 35 million dollar grant. It wasn't the Y that blew the whistle. When Jackie took over, we redid the pool , got new exercise equipment, resanded the basket ball and raquetball courts. One day she took all the backroom people to Disneyland. A lot of money was spent that should have been saved. Even at a meeting we had for the membership , when we didn't have papertowels and handsoap --she was talking about redoing the parking lot and mens lockerroom. This with paychecks bouncing. She may have increased membership, but if 85 percent are let in with reduced membership fees (such as Hemet) it isn't going to help much. Oh yes, around December we borrowed 325,000 and it didn't stop the checks from bouncing. That money will have to be paid back with interest. If this is doing a great job, as John Ray says, I wonder what is doing a poor job like.
Sandi July 06, 2012 at 02:57 PM
I agree with "seriously". I was a member and there was no management for one. Nobody knew what was going on. And I completely agree that they did not offer anything. I came from the Encinitas Y and that place is wonderful. I hope they get this open and running. I live in Rainbow and I need a pool that does not require me to live in the area to swim or I have to pay big fees each time I swim!! People who want to lap swim ever day it becomes to expensive. I hope the have a monthly type membership to all.
Disappointed resident August 25, 2012 at 03:31 PM
I thought the "C" in YMCA stood for Christian? Based on these comments, it doesn't appear that management is behaving as such. Is the national headquarters of the YMCA aware of what is going on in Riverside? I'd be curious to know how they would feel about this.
Y Supporter March 18, 2013 at 05:28 PM
Take a Look........ You want to know how to run a real "Y"? Take a look at the Redlands Y. The budget there grew from about 3 million/year to over 12 million per year. Recession? Don't think so! The Redlands Y had a capital campaign in the middle of the "recession" and raised 9 million dollars! Good management (financial) will trump anything else.

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