Downtown YWCA files for bankruptcy

lcarroll@newsobserver.comJuly 27, 2012 

— The YWCA of the Greater Triangle has filed for bankruptcy, after abruptly closing the downtown facility earlier this year because of financial problems.

The YWCA’s Board of Directors announced its decision to file a “petition for relief” under Chapter 7 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. The Hargett Street chapter, which opened more than 100 years ago and served 12,000 people in the Triangle area, closed its doors Feb. 29.

“It’s a real shame,” said Bridgette Burge, former director of advocacy and community initiative. “I was holding out hope that the board would rally support, create a business plan and keep that really valuable and needed organization alive.”

Joan Vinas, president of the board, and Maria Spaulding, the immediate past president, declined to comment.

“The Board has taken this action after thoroughly reviewing its financial condition and considering all other realistic options for its continued operations at this time,” board members said in a news release.

According to court documents, the YWCA has $445,695 in liabilities, including just under $80,000 in employee wages and benefits. Under Chapter 7, a bankruptcy trustee will sell the organization’s assets and give the proceeds to creditors.

Staff members were laid off in waves leading up to the branch’s closure. For the 14 employees who stayed until the end, they were told of their dismissal less than 24 hours before the branch closed.

At least three former employees, including Burge, have filed claims against the board to receive their final paychecks. Burge said the YWCA now has a court order to pay her within the next several weeks.

Several former employees have held three organizing meetings since the branch closed to discuss ways to continue serving the community without any pay. Burge said. Some have continued community equity and justice projects that they had worked on at the YWCA.

Before it closed, the YWCA provided afterschool care for about 50 children and served a daily meal to about 60 older adults. The Triangle area chapter’s mission was to “eliminate racism and empower women,” and much of its work focused on single mothers.

The nonprofit suffered financial losses for several years — its assets dropped from $3.6 million in 2007 to $2.2 million by June 2010, according to Internal Revenue Service documents. The court documents show that the YWCA now has less than $1.2 million in assets.

The financial problems partially stemmed from the larger Triangle community’s negligence of southeast Raleigh, Burge said. But she said the problems were made worse by a board of directors that ignored signs of financial trouble and relied too much on raising grants instead of fundraising.

“They are really good women with good hearts,” Burge said of the board members. “But they were also asleep at the wheel.”

Carroll: 919-829-4918

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