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Pinetree
distinguished member(12726)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished membermaster membermaster member
 
08/08/2020 09:57PM
YMCA camps

What I have seen the camps are extremely well run and staff or crew leaders have been excellent. Camp Menogyn probably introduced more girls to the outdoors than just about any camp and have done a excellent job.
 
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Mocha
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08/09/2020 07:39AM
Ridiculous. Sure, the top brass are committed to camping... but also committed to making sure their pockets stay lined.

Why is it that whenever there is an economic crisis, the head honchos don’t seem to feel the pinch and end up with millions in bonuses and don’t see a pay cut. How about they roll up their pant legs and jump into the thick of it. Most probably have no idea what it takes on an hourly basis to keep their companies running. Workers should be compensated handsomely for their loyalty.

I’m not sure how someone in ely is going to take care of menogyn if their is a crisis. As the article states, the remote location of menogyn is clearly reason to have the person In camp. Hopefully the exec director IS IN camp.

I guess I’m not even sure if their summer workers are paid or get a stipend or work for free for the experience. All the staff I’d ever met over the years truly love and their job and having the opportunity to work up thru the ranks each season.

They can say the positions weren’t “fired” but rather furloughed. For how long? Long enough to damage the integrity of the operation? The integrity of the program?

This is upsetting news for an early Sunday morning.
 
Blatz
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08/09/2020 10:48AM
The YMCA in general has been hemorrhaging for years. Mainly due to competition and slow response to updating.
 
Mocha
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08/09/2020 11:05AM
What sorts of updates would you think are needed? I thought the program was intended to build teamwork and personal growth.
 
straighthairedcurly
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08/09/2020 11:40AM
I don't have online access to the article, but this has been a big topic of discussion in my family.

We are a long time Menogyn family, a couple generations of campers, numerous of us on staff in past decades, and regular donors. While I understand the huge financial burden hitting the camps due to the need to cancel this past summer's programming, this is exactly the time we need quality leadership ready to plan for the recovery. Removing the camp directors is not the way to do it, IMO.
 
jwartman59
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08/09/2020 12:17PM
this news is sad but not surprising. my 18' wood/canvas chestnut prospector is a camp widjiwagen reject. i guess kids now days aren't interested in carrying a ninety pound canoe. i grew up near the camp director of camp widjiwagen. he may have been one of the best people i have met in my life, i'd be shocked to hear that he received huge bonuses. in fact i can't imagine how stressful his job must have been, in those days trips would go out on for trips easily over forty days in the far north of canada. totally out of contact with civilization for weeks in very dangerous conditions. rescue was never an option. no radios in those days. i was a camper and worker at widji, also did a lot of volunteer work. my daughter was a camper and guide at menogyn, she did get paid, not much though. my daughter in law was a camper/guide at widjiwagen, also paid. menogyn may be able to run fine without a director on site. the trail director was responsible for groups in the field. he was essential especially now when all the groups carry communication equipment. none of these people are making big bucks, my son just sold his duluth home to an employee at menogyn. these people are there because they love the wilderness, but more importantly they love to pass their love and knowledge to the next generation of canoeists. i can spot a widjiwagen/menogyn alum from across the lake, these guys know their stuff.
 
08/10/2020 08:03AM
I can’t read the article, but this is just the beginning IMHO...I assume all of the YMCA is interconnected. They were shut down in most states for quite a awhile and even with openings they are still limited on volumes of staff and participants. Even if they were opened up completely I am not going to a gym or camp yet...I don’t think I am in the minority either... Unfortunately their biggest expense is salary and benefits...when your business is failing and hemorrhaging money what are you supposed to do? I think lifetime recently cut 350 employees with another half still on furlough.

Even if the administration or congress come up with another bailout, it just isn’t enough for a lot of organizations.

Maybe this specific cut seems wrong, but often big organizations like this are desperate in times like this just make unilateral moves to balance their operations. It’s make the cuts now...or cut EVERYONE later. Times are tough for a lot of businesses and will get tougher for some.

T
 
heavylunch
distinguished member (133)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
08/10/2020 09:31AM
Sad. I like the YMCA for some things. But in our area the YMCA Twin cities was not super kind to our local area either in Western Wisconsin. Seems like they are kind of losing their roots and creativity for innovating. I think with the right people they could keep their roots and adapt. I wonder how many of the decision makers have spent substantial time at the camps where they are cutting what appears to be well liked leaders.
 
Pinetree
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08/10/2020 09:41AM
YMCA cuts affecting Camp Menogyn and Camp Widjiwagan cause controversy
Menogyn and Widjiwagan share a director. That hasn't sat well.
By Tony Kennedy Star Tribune AUGUST 8, 2020 — 4:19PM

PHOTO PROVIDED BY YMCA
YMCA’s Camp Menogyn does more than lead teens on wilderness trips into the Boundary Waters. Guides also train campers for backpacking, paddling and climbing adventures around the world. Here a group of Menogyn campers rested on a mountainside in Alaska during a guided backpacking trip.
TEXT SIZE

Hundreds of donors and volunteers who support camping at YMCA of the North are voicing angst and anger over a COVID-19-related financial decision to fire top managers at half of the Y’s eight camps.

Glen Gunderson, chief executive president of the nonprofit association, has successfully allayed some fears that the YMCA could be losing interest in camping. But his strong reassurances haven’t ended the controversy. At least one prominent camp is publicly revolting and trying to undo the change.

“I’m concerned about the future of YMCA camping and in particular the future of YMCA wilderness camping,’’ said Katy Hargis, a former chairwoman of the Camp Menogyn Community Board.

Taylor Fay, current chairman of Menogyn’s all-volunteer community board, said he believes YMCA brass in Minneapolis is committed to camping as a core, long-term mission.

But supporters of Menogyn, in particular, want the Y to reverse the decision that has left the 98-year-old camp sharing an executive director with Camp Widjiwagan on Burntside Lake in Ely. Menogyn and “Widji” serve as the backbone of wilderness camping and adventure trips at YMCA of the North, formerly known as YMCA of the Greater Twin Cities. The four camp executive directors who lost their jobs were fired, not furloughed.

“I’m certainly frustrated with this decision and the situation we’re in,’’ Fay said Friday. “But I’m hopeful in the direction we are going now.’’

He said Gunderson has been engaged in good-faith talks with Menogyn’s supporters in looking for a solution. But as Fay noted, the talks can’t take place in a vacuum because the staff cuts have affected all eight YMCA of the North camps in Minnesota and western Wisconsin.

At Hennepin County’s Camp Ihduhapi on Lake Independence, for example, YMCA brass yanked the executive director and assigned her duties to the executive director, who remains in charge of Camp Warren on Half Moon Lake near Eveleth, 200 miles away. The restructuring happened in late July.

“I think other camps are concerned,” Fay said. “Everyone is worried.’’

Camp Menogyn, which hosts upward of 600 teen campers in a normal year, is located 45 miles up the Gunflint Trail from Grand Marais. There are no roads to the camp itself; you have to cross West Bearskin Lake to get there.

Fay said Menogyn’s inherent safety and risk management issues demand a full-time executive director. He said the executive director also maintains key relationships with donors, volunteers and other supporters.

Said Hargis: “When you lose your executive director, you lose the identity of your camps.’’

Soon after Camp Menogyn Executive Director Meghan Cosgrove was fired late last month as part of the Y’s sweeping cost-cutting moves, the community board held an emergency meeting and launched a website to announce the cuts and inform supporters of “next steps.’’

Fay informed generations of the camp’s devoted followers that the Y acted without consulting Menogyn’s local leaders.

The message set off a flurry of comments on the Camp Menogyn Alumni Facebook group site.

“Get involved … Don’t let them take away the camps!!!!’’ one supporter wrote.

“I’m afraid this may be the beginning of the end of Menogyn,’’ another supporter wrote.

Another alumni group member called the staff reduction a “corporate structure tactic.’’ He wrote: “In the big picture of cutting Y employees.[sic] The camp director should not be one of them.’’

Other supporters worry that YMCA’s camps could be sold for cash to address the association’s financial crisis. YMCA spokeswoman Joan Schimml said the nonprofit’s revenue in the first seven months of 2020 plunged 30%.

The crash coincided with the shutdown of facilities and programming forced by the coronavirus. Some members canceled or suspended memberships. The Y also had to cancel revenue-making events and programs, contributing to staff furloughs and other cuts.

Gunderson has hosted at least two online “listening circles’’ attended by hundreds of people in the Y’s camping community. In those meetings he’s been unequivocal about the association’s long-term commitment to the camps and the Y’s wilderness adventures.

“I know there’s concern out there,’’ he said in an interview. “We have absolutely zero interest in shrinking our wilderness camping program.’’

The Y canceled all camping activities this summer at Menogyn and Widjiwagan. In addition, Menogyn withdrew its winter dog-sled programming. The two camps not only lead canoe trips into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, they also train campers for backpacking, climbing and paddling adventures around the world.

Gunderson and Niki Geisler, vice president of camping at the Y, said the wilderness camps offer the utmost in transformational experiences for YMCA youth.

Gunderson said that the staffing cuts were “100 percent pandemic-driven’’ and that he was right to make the cuts without first consulting with the individual community boards at each camp. The employees who were dismissed deserved to be the first to know of their fate, he said.

Tony Lockhart of Two Harbors attended Camp Menogyn as a child and sent his own children there. He’s been active as a supporter for decades and now sits on the Menogyn Community Board.

He said the outpouring of concern by alumni is a reflection of how much people love the camps and want to protect them.

“The idea that it’s threatened creates urgency,’’ Lockhart said.

He said it’s clear to him that YMCA’s top executives are committed to camping “for the next 100 years.’’ He added: “The challenge for the Y and the challenge for those of us who believe in these programs is to find a way through these uncertain times.’’

Tony Kennedy is an outdoors writer covering Minnesota news about fishing, hunting, wildlife, conservation, camping, natural resource management, public land, forests and water.

tony.kennedy@startribune.com
 
nofish
distinguished member(2764)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
08/10/2020 11:28AM
As someone with no experience with these YMCA camps its hard for me to get a read on this topic. It seems those who have connections to the camps are upset but how much of that is due to peoples normal dislike of change and the desire to see the things they love stay the same forever?

Given the financial issues that covid has created for the YMCA its not surprising that they had to make some sort of cost cutting measure. I'm not familiar enough with these camps to know if this is a logical choice, a bad choice, or the only choice they had. Sometimes people take the biggest hit in times like this because they are the easiest cost to cut. Other overhead costs generally can't be reduced as easily, not without making more permanent sacrifices.

If these camps aren't able to run camp programs this year then maybe it makes sense to consolidate leadership and run with a skeleton crew while they attempt to weather this storm. Then once they are able to get operations back to normal they can look to refill these lost positions.

Unfortunately the only thing consistent during the ongoing pandemic is change. Everything has changed and will continue to change. Many businesses and organizations are struggling and having to find ways to stay afloat if they hope to survive beyond 2020. Sometimes those changes are painful or unpopular.
 
BearBurrito
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08/10/2020 11:37AM
Bummer
 
straighthairedcurly
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08/10/2020 12:23PM
From the YMCA Camp Menogyn Alumni Facebook page:

Below are a few updates on the Menogyn Community Board’s conversations with YMCA of the North (formerly YMCA of the Twin Cities) leadership.

1) On Friday, July 31, the Community Board met via Zoom with Glen Gunderson (President and CEO), Greg Waibel (COO), Niki Geisler (VP of Camping) and Carolyn Sakstrup (General Board Member and former Menogyn staff member)

2) The YMCA of the North has indicated that they do not plan to sell Menogyn and want to work with the community to ensure that Menogyn continues to provide transformational wilderness experiences for teens for many years to come

3)The Community Board is looking forward to continued constructive conversations with the YMCA of the North leadership

4) The Menogyn Program Director (Emily) will be returning to work the week of 8/10

 
jhb8426
distinguished member(1155)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
08/10/2020 11:41PM
The YMCA has financial problems system wide and is making cuts in in many areas, not just camp staff. Frankly, with no camp programs this year camp staff are easy targets. Again with no camp programs, there are not many camp staff positions to cut below directors and other full time staff. They have let many fitness instructors go at the Twin City facilities and are running most fitness programs with skeleton crews. It's tough times all around for them as well as many others.
 
08/11/2020 07:15AM
1400 YMCA employees laid off in New York alone...they hope to recall them as they re build but no guarantee things will go back to “normal” anytime soon. There is no company that can just pay employees to stay home and not work...simple mathematics. Sucks! Glad I do not have to make these decisions because there is no answer that is satisfying.


T
 
missmolly
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08/11/2020 07:41AM
Menogyn has been transformative for hundreds/thousands/tens of thousands of women. I have no direct experience with it, but over the years, I've interviewed and profiled several women who fell in love with wild places at Menogyn. All who love the glorious yonder should support a program that mints paddlers and wilderness guardians.
 
CityFisher74
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08/11/2020 08:54AM
Major bummer. As others have stated, I am always skeptical of how these cut decisions are made. I am sure someone with an objective eye would see plenty of other things that could be cut before doing this. What can you do.
 
mc2mens
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08/11/2020 12:20PM
missmolly: "Menogyn has been transformative for hundreds/thousands/tens of thousands of women. I have no direct experience with it, but over the years, I've interviewed and profiled several women who fell in love with wild places at Menogyn. All who love the glorious yonder should support a program that mints paddlers and wilderness guardians. "

This is true. And Widjiwagan has introduced tens of thousands of school children to the wilderness over the years. If you are a 5th grader in Minnesota attending public schools, you likely went to Widjiwagan for a week with your classmates to learn outdoor skills, environmental stewardship and education. The kids have a blast. Mine did.

I sure hope they can rebound after Covid.
 
jhb8426
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08/11/2020 11:15PM
mc2mens: "If you are a 5th grader in Minnesota attending public schools, you likely went to Widjiwagan for a week with your classmates to learn outdoor skills, environmental stewardship and education."

Actually there are a number of these environmental learning centers. My kids went to Wolf Ridge in Finland MN. I was a chaperone. Very good experience.
 
justpaddlin
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08/13/2020 07:09AM
I was working as a lifeguard and swim instructor at our local YMCA until it shut down due to COVID. One of three YMCA's in our area shut down permanently. Unfortunately I have to say that the quality of leadership I observed was poor...old-fashioned top-down, disengaged and too absorbed with political nonsense. The front line workers were under appreciated and working around the management to address the real issues/needs. I assumed it was hard to get good management/leadership staffing for a non-profit. I recently stopped by to sign paperwork to decline my former job since I won't go near that place until the virus threat has passed. I was surprised to see two HR folks working in an empty building. The Aquatics Director is employed but the pools are drained for maintenance. I don't have enough first hand knowledge to comment on the camps in the article but my industry experience tells me that cutting layers of management has the potential to lead to a healthier organization.
 
nofish
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08/13/2020 09:56AM
justpaddlin: "I was working as a lifeguard and swim instructor at our local YMCA until it shut down due to COVID. One of three YMCA's in our area shut down permanently. Unfortunately I have to say that the quality of leadership I observed was poor...old-fashioned top-down, disengaged and too absorbed with political nonsense. The front line workers were under appreciated and working around the management to address the real issues/needs. I assumed it was hard to get good management/leadership staffing for a non-profit. I recently stopped by to sign paperwork to decline my former job since I won't go near that place until the virus threat has passed. I was surprised to see two HR folks working in an empty building. The Aquatics Director is employed but the pools are drained for maintenance. I don't have enough first hand knowledge to comment on the camps in the article but my industry experience tells me that cutting layers of management has the potential to lead to a healthier organization. "

This is an interesting perspective. I felt that the YMCA near me that we are members of opened too soon and without the correct protocols in place. I assumed they did it because they were hurting financially as so many cancelled or put memberships on hold. I also won't go near the place given how they are handling things. We put our membership on hold and honestly I'm not sure when or if we'll go back. There are other community center options near us that offer the same if not more ammenities, its just a little longer drive as the Y is 2 minutes from our door which made it an attractive option.
 
GoCobbers95
member (25)member
 
08/13/2020 03:30PM
I have no firsthand knowledge of the YMCA camp(s) in question nor the leadership on either side of these decisions. I only share perspective as someone employed within this industry. For me, this is significantly less about malicious board/exec team action meant to hurt good camps and good directors and more about drastic losses to revenue due to COVID-19.

In many cases, upwards of 65% of revenue is tied to seasonal use, or at the least, onsite/offsite programming. Very little of that revenue came in this year. It is also often the case that over 50% of camp operation expenses are tied to staffing. Now, it would be fantastic if camp organizations had large surpluses of cash on hand to weather pandemics but for most, that is incredibly rare.

Staffing cuts suck. I feel horrible for the camp organizations (and MANY other industries who are hurting this year).

I'll definitely be sending an extra gift this year to the non profit camps that helped shape my life!
 
08/14/2020 10:01PM
I share Mocha’s thoughts... I hope the top CEO’s or whatever they are don’t get bonuses for this. They should take a hit like everyone else! I find it hard to donate to places that give so much to the top while the programs suffer.
 
jhb8426
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08/16/2020 01:48AM
Anecdotally, there are a lot of issues with staff furloughs/layoffs at YMCAs in general. Doesn't sound very good all around. Things are tough in the non-profit sector.
 
naturboy12
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08/16/2020 07:59AM
I will say this, and really can’t say much more- YMCAs across the nation vary greatly in their ability to stay solvent with the current situation. Some are making it, with skeleton staffs and greatly reduced offerings. Others are shuttered and will stay that way.

As a 15+ year full time, director level staff, being furloughed for 2+ months was no fun, but when your program has zero income and membership is taking a 60% income hit, what other choice is there? More than likely, I’ll be facing furlough or worse again soon, even though we were able to offer limited summer programming at our facility. Our CEO worked for free for a couple months, and at 50% pay since then. Many of our directors and assistants are still furloughed. 90 some % of our 1400 part time staff are still not back to work. Our salaries (at least of those who make more than $50k/year- so, not mine) are all public realm knowledge as a non-profit, feel free to look them up so you can see these positions are not treated like large business CEOs. There will be no bonuses for their efforts to keep things running.

So please, if you have no outside knowledge of how an organization with as much diversity in operations functions, try not to assassinate the effort being made. Definitely don’t lump all YMCAs into the same category. And if your that curious, reach out to the specific YMCA/camp and ask questions. Most will be very forthcoming about what is going on. We have nothing to gain by not telling our story to our communities.
 
straighthairedcurly
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08/19/2020 08:29PM
missmolly: "Menogyn has been transformative for hundreds/thousands/tens of thousands of women. I have no direct experience with it, but over the years, I've interviewed and profiled several women who fell in love with wild places at Menogyn. All who love the glorious yonder should support a program that mints paddlers and wilderness guardians. "

ABSOLUTELY! This describes me, my sister, and now my niece. Menogyn led me to whitewater, then to whitewater slalom racing, then to kayak polo and the 1st USA Worlds team. None of that would have happened without the skills and confidence that Menogyn gave me.
 
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