Didn’t most people already call it the Y? Wasn’t the logo already a Y?
On the heels of General Motors asking people to start calling Chevy by its full name, Chevrolet, we now have a marketing genius at the Young Men’s Christian Association saying that officially, the YMCA will now be the “Y.” Thank you for that splendid waste of marketing effort. Quoted in The New York Times (no wait, or is it THE TIMES!), Kate Coleman says:
“It’s a way of being warmer, more genuine, more welcoming, when you call yourself what everyone else calls you,” said Kate Coleman, the organization’s senior vice president and chief marketing officer.
Again, doesn’t everybody call it the Y? Then Y NOT just be the YMCA all the time when you are the official organization, and when you feel like it in brochure or an ad, call yourself the Y?
We, however, noticed a sadder mention of YMCA this week in the news. We wish the marketing folk would focus on that. In Los Angeles, LA Weekly reports that a black church was apparently kicked out of the fancy Brentwood Y, and are suing, accusing the facility of discrimination. A church that can’t use the Y.
Y that’s awful.
We wish, however, that when these organizations made these pronouncements, they would read back on their accomplishments, think of what person inspired them, a certain person whose initial is “C” and focus on that.
The “Y” here in Sarasota is known for its family programs and a rather plush birthday water park facility. Nothing wrong with a family water park, but it always seems unfortunate that an organization that was known in past generations for giving men a new direction in life was now the place for expensive upper middle class birthday parties, however nicely run they are.
We don’t want to be all grumps. YMCA still offers many services for families, swim instruction, etc. But we do feel a bit conflicted about an organization that was founded to keep people off the streets, but no longer seems interested in the “C” in its name.
Above, is a Jack Delano Library of Congress photo from the American Memory collection circa 1943. It shows Gibson, Indiana, and a Mr. Russell Guess, engineer on the Indiana Harbor Belt and New York Central Railroads. Apparently Mr. Guess was a frequent guest at the railroads’ Young Men’s Christian Association. I think of this example, and I think that in at least one city, airports are allowing pilots to set up trailer parks to sleep, before they fly. The young pilots, making a pittance on regional carriers, cannot afford hotels, and live elsewhere, and so must camp by the runway. And I wonder. Isn’t this the work of the YMCA? Aren’t there enough men in the U.S. in trouble?
But back to the name issue. We should note that YMCA isn’t the first organization to hide mention of its “Christian” faith. The Richmond-based Christian Children’s Fund completely dropped the “Christian” in 2009, in favor of ChildFund. Their press release didn’t even mention the issue, but we will:
“The new name strengthens our ability to work in closer partnership with new allies and be more approachable to an increasingly diverse global landscape – all while pursuing the core mission of bringing positive change to the world’s children that has guided our organization since its founding,” said ChildFund International President and CEO Anne Lynam Goddard. The new name and a new strategy were announced in April following the board of directors’ approval.
“We are not just changing our name, we are sharpening our focus, and accelerating our work,” Goddard said. “We want to do more than help our children escape the root causes of poverty – we want to help them uproot those causes. We want children to lead the change.”
Those of us who thought that Christ was the reason all this was happening, I guess, can now be certain that maybe He wasn’t the reason, after all.
But back to the Y.
One great thing about the Y (and again they do many great things) is that it is a highly decentralized organization, and each area gets to decide how it operates its own Y facility. That means there are many areas where YMCAs look like a YMCA should look like. Thankfully, there are many aspects of the YMCA that still have to do with its roots as a Christian organization:
- Many across the U.S. still offer a cheap place to sleep.
- The YMCA of Portland Willamette has a whole page on keeping the “C” in YMCA, with an open offer to host bible study groups.
- The Ragsdale Family YMCA in Greensboro, NC offers bible study.
- The Toledo YMCA has a strong chaplain program, and works cooperatively with the local JCC. One does not have to give up one’s own principles to work with other faiths, by the way
- The Andrew Riverside Presbyterian Church in Dinkytown, Minnesota holds services at a local Y.