The YMCA of Metropolitan Fort Worth is set to receive $6 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act Funds for two projects in north and east Fort Worth. 

The allocation is Tarrant County’s largest out of the $35.5 million set aside for nonprofits in July. The American Rescue Plan Act sent federal funds to municipalities to aid in recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Tarrant County received $408 million in total from the federal government. In April, the Tarrant County Commissioners Court called for proposals from nonprofits that matched the county’s goals of improving public health and wellness, revitalizing the economy and strengthening the community.

The YMCA requested $25 million in funding for three projects. Two of the projects received ARPA funding: the Northwest YMCA and the Eastside YMCA. The two projects still require an additional $13 million to be completed, Brown said. The Eastside YMCA needs $3.5 million in funding while the Northwest YMCA needs $10 million in funding. 

“We felt honored, we felt endorsed, we felt blessed that people see the value in what the YMCA can offer in the communities that we chose,” Mike Brown, president of the Fort Worth YMCA, said.

The city is also investing $25 million in federal funds for small businesses using American Rescue Plan Act funding. That comes on top of $30 million in CARES Act funding, another pandemic era stimulus bill that was earmarked for small businesses in the early days of the pandemic. 

Affected businesses, including gyms, were eligible to receive up to $10,000 in grant funding from the CARES Act. The American Rescue Plan Act makes businesses eligible to receive up to $27,500. 

Investing in nonprofits is a common use of federal funds, said Brian Namey, chief public affairs officer with the National Association of Counties. It allows municipalities to leverage their federal funds with private funds to ensure they go further, he added 

“We are seeing many investments in nonprofits around the country,” Namey said. ”I would classify it as very common for counties to leverage resources with private organizations.” 

COVID Impacts on the YMCA 

YMCAs in Fort Worth and across the country were severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, Brown said. Locally, the organization lost $10 million in revenue and laid off 1,200 employees. At its lowest point, the YMCA of Metropolitan Fort Worth employed 30 people – just 2% of its pre-pandemic staff. 

Since the darkest days of the pandemic, The YMCA has seen a 75% growth in membership, Brown said. The YMCA currently employs about 800 workers, depending on the season. The organization expects to grow its membership base by 20% this year.

Staffing has been a challenge, Teri McGuill, the YMCA’s chief development officer, said. The organization is struggling to get back to pre-pandemic levels. Still, the organization is optimistic about its future. 

“We’re rebounding nicely,” Brown said. “I would say that a lot of that comes from our donors, government funding like the American Rescue Plan Act as well as most of our foundations in town.”

Two new YMCAs heading to Fort Worth

The Eastside YMCA, 1500 Sandy Lane, closed during the COVID-19 pandemic along with several other YMCAs across the city. When it came time to reopen them, the Eastside facility remained closed. Federal funds will be used to renovate the facility before reopening it to the public, Brown said. 

The Eastside YMCA cannot sustain itself on memberships alone, Brown explained. Instead, the center’s purpose will be focused around community services like food distribution, job training and clubs — along with the swim lessons and sports typically housed at a YMCA facility. 

To sustain those services the YMCA needs grant funding, donations and community support, Brown said. After receiving $3.5 million in federal funds, the YMCA will be in a position to reopen the facility. 

Lillie Biggins, a longtime Eastside resident and member of the YMCA’s board, insisted that staff work to reopen the Eastside YMCA as soon as possible. Her grandson learned to swim at the Eastside YMCA, she said, and its absence leaves a hole in the community. 

“It is 72% minority-majority area,” Biggins said. “So you can see the kids who are going to be impacted by closing and leaving it closed.”

The recent rash of youth gun violence worries Biggins. She hopes this new YMCA can alleviate some of the issues Fort Worth youth face by focusing on the needs of teenagers. A new element of the facility, called a Center of Excellence, will be opened later for teenagers who need a place to go after school where they can avoid dangerous situations, Biggins said. 

“I’m looking to have something that is a standout type of program that we’re able to reproduce in other communities for that teenage group of people who really need something to do and some purpose,” Biggins said. 

In Northwest Fort Worth, the YMCA is looking to construct a $34 million brand-new facility, Brown said. The organization is partnering with the Eagle Mountain-Saginaw Independent School District to construct a new YMCA facility. 

The new building, which received $2.5 million in funding, will serve residents of Fort Worth, Saginaw, Lake Worth and other municipalities in the area. 

“We are in a growth area, so people come before facilities,” Jim Chadwell, superintendent of Eagle Mountain-Saginaw ISD, said. “We are under-resourced in this area in terms of parks and recreation centers. So there’s a definitive need, especially for younger people.”

The school district will donate a portion of its land on Marine Creek Boulevard near Chisholm Trail High School for the construction of the YMCA facility. 

The YMCA expects up to 4,000 families to join the YMCA at the northwest location, Brown said. Those memberships will help sustain the organization, and pay for programs like swim lessons, sports and childcare. 

The project will help the school district and the YMCA leverage its resources more effectively, Chadwell said. The school district plans to provide programming along with the financial resources already promised to the project. 

“They’re a proven partner for us, they’ve stepped up and done so much for us and this would be an opportunity to really take that partnership even farther,” Chadwell said.

More funding is required

The YMCA is contributing $19.5 million in matching funds but still has about $13 million to raise through donations and grants. 

The matching funds were received through land donations, federal appropriations through Congressman Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, and fundraising from the YMCA itself. 

“Now is the work to drive donors, partners, foundations to help us close that gap, so that we can make this become a reality,” Brown said. 

The federal allocation will make fundraising easier because the YMCA can approach donors with tangible resources already in place, McGuill said. The allocation also allows the organization to pursue new, ambitious goals. 

“We’re able to plant seeds in programs and facilities from a visionary perspective that we wouldn’t have been able to do prior,” McGuill said. 

The funding allocated through the county is strictly for facilities, so the public will be able to see how far their tax dollars went through the eventual construction, Brown said. The county requires recipients to report back on how the money was spent and passes that information on to the U.S. Treasury Department. 

“The immediate expectation is we’re going to open two YMCAs,” Brown said. “It’s very tangible.” 

Rachel Behrndt is a government accountability reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at rachel.behrndt@fortworthreport.org or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

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Rachel Behrndt

Rachel Behrndt is a government accountability reporter for fortworthreport.org. She can be reached at rachel.behrndt@fortworthreport.org