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Central YWCA to Close in June 2003

November 15, 2002|Seema Mehta | Times Staff Writer

The YWCA of Central Orange County, unable to cover the costs of child care, after-school programs and other services, will close its doors next year.

The demise of the 81-year-old institution leaves Orange County with only one YWCA, down from five at the organization's height.

"It's a heartbreaker," said Arianna Barrios, a YWCA board member. "Everyone worked very, very hard and did their very, very best, but sometimes you do your best and it's just not enough."

Officials said that while fund-raising in recent years was mostly successful, its programs were simply losing too much money. For example, the YWCA's infant-care program lost more than $5,000 a month for years. In 2001, the club spent $73,000 more than its $836,000 budget.

A recent downturn in contributions to nonprofits across the nation only worsened the financial picture, pushing the YWCA of Central Orange County over the brink.

"The reality is you need to look at programs with a strict eye on the bottom line," Barrios said. "If you are not funding programs, you need to cut that program. [But] in the history of the YWCA, we have not done that.

The organization is in negotiation with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Ana and Tustin to take over facilities and programs at the YWCA in Orange.

Both Boys & Girls Clubs were already planning to expand into Orange, where there are 7,000 children who need afternoon programs and services, said John Brewster, president and chief operating officer of the Santa Ana club.

"This is something we were going to do anyway," he said. "This just seems to be an opportunity to do it quicker and to access a population that needs us now."

All YWCA programs will continue through June 2003. The Boys & Girls Club is expected to take over after-school care starting Dec. 2, though it will no longer be a licensed program. The First Presbyterian Church in Orange will pay for a costly busing program that takes motel children to school.

The YWCA will look to other nonprofits to take over other programs, such as a housing program for women leaving foster families at age 18.

The YWCA will hold a public meeting to discuss the closure at 6 p.m. Monday at 146 N. Grand Ave., Orange.

The YWCA's only remaining Orange County chapter is the YWCA of North Orange County in Fullerton.

"I was really saddened that one of my sister organizations has to close their doors," said Diane Masseth-Jones, executive director. "The YWCA of North Orange County is ready to meet the challenge and provide programs and services on behalf of the YWCA."

Masseth-Jones said her chapter has taken several steps to ensure that it does not meet a similar fate, including a diversified funding base and requiring programs to fund themselves. Two years ago, the chapter ended a licensed day-care center because the cost of compliance with state codes was too high.

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