Flint, MI— Due to COVID-19, the YMCA of Greater Flint has suffered significant financial losses, but a $1 million grant from The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation is helping to support the organization. 

The two-year grant will enable the YMCA to serve residents through its downtown Flint and Pierson Road facilities, as well as Camp Copneconic, a Fenton-based campground offering a variety of afterschool and outdoor programs.  

“The YMCA has been a key part of the Flint community for more than a century, providing residents with access to recreational opportunities and essential services,” said Ridgway White, president and CEO of the Mott Foundation. “During the pandemic, these services are more important than ever. We hope this grant will not only allow the YMCA to continue serving the community during a time of crisis, but also provide a little more breathing room for the organization to chart its path forward.”

COVID-19 has most affected the YMCA’s mission and afterschool activities, Pam Bailey said, director of fundraising and public relations for YMCA. 

“We normally have upwards of 50 kids at a site, now we’re really limited because of space…. The other thing that really hurt us is we do a lot of mission programs. So, we do a free water safety program, a free afterschool program, we had a free basketball program on Saturdays…. A lot of those have been canceled because of COVID,” Bailey said, adding that some youth rely on afterschool programs for a meal. 

Since the stay-at-home order was issued in March 2020, YMCA Flint “pivoted” and began operating mobile feeding sites. 

“Five days a week, we still bring a bus and go to three different sites and we drop off a couple hundred meals each day for youth who (aren’t able) to come to traditional afterschool programs,” Bailey said. 

A decline in membership has also contributed to the YMCA Flint’s financial struggles. Over the past year, the organization has seen a 30% to 50% loss in membership fees. 

“Those membership fees pay for the overall operations of the buildings…. It helps to cover some of those overhead costs, so we can also allow free programming to happen,” Bailey said. 

Giving and philanthropic behavior from donors has varied, Bailey said.  

“It’s two extremes, I would say. One of the things that we’ve really learned is that we have to be vulnerable, we really have to tell people when we are hurting. And when we do that, we’ve had some incredibly generous people,” she said, noting that others have to pull back due financial strain caused by the pandemic. 

As the COVID-19 vaccine becomes more widely available, membership is slowly on the rise, and Bailey said they are optimistic. 

“We are just so grateful that the Mott Foundation is helping…. And we’re hopeful that Flint will enter into a healing phase,” she said.  

Carmen Nesbitt is a journalist with diverse experience in news reporting and feature writing. She wrote for Hour Detroit and SEEN Magazine before joining the Flint Beat news team as an education and public...