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‘Better Together’ theme for YMCA merger kickoff

By David Freeze for the Salisbury Post


The Rowan and Cabarrus YMCA’s will officially merge on January 1st, 2020. New Rowan-Cabarrus YMCA leaders planned an informal meeting at the Kannapolis Depot on Thursday night to introduce the county boards, their new collective officers and YMCA leadership from six branches, three each from Rowan and Cabarrus counties. YMCA CEO Jamie Morgan said, “While we have been working on the merger for much of the last three years, still many staff and board members had never met. We wanted to start building the strongest teamwork possible.”

Rob Betler, the current board chair of the Cannon Memorial YMCA of Cabarrus, is also the incoming board chair of the new combined organization. He said, “Our time is now, today is the day we start!”  Betler is Market President for BB&T, heading the commercial lending group for North Mecklenburg, Cabarrus and Rowan counties. Betler has worked for BB&T for 21 years and have been associated with the YMCA since 2008.

Involved in the merger since talks began, Betler worked with both county boards to ensure a good fit. He said, “We wanted to make sure our vision and culture of the YMCA matched with what Jamie was bringing from Rowan.”

As a long-time youth coach who has served in multiple capacities on the various boards of the Rowan Y, Shane Wolford is the current Rowan County Board Chair and will become the Chairperson Elect of the new board. As a VP/ Market Executive for Carolina Trust Bank in Salisbury, Wolford said, “I want to use my talents to help the new combined organization make a difference.” Wolford served on the Merger Steering and Governance Committees and led the Rowan board through merger discussions and processes.

As leaders of the new organization, both Betler and Wolford have similar goals. Betler said, “The merger will be a good thing because we will be able to help more individuals in both counties. The overall values and Christian emphasis of the YMCA is key to our success. The YMCA is home for many in our communities and we are now going to be able to open the door to our house and assist even more individuals. Our organization actively works with the youth and seniors of our community, making a direct impact.“

Wolford agreed, “Our dedication to Christian principles is first and foremost. While many are taking God out of their organizations, we want to make sure to put Him in wherever we can. The merger will allow for expansion of services and growth opportunities in both counties. Combining operations will result in financial savings. We are already sharing a Chief Financial Officer.”

Currently the Senior Operations Officer for F&M Bank and treasurer for the Rowan board, Tonya Barber has been associated with the YMCA for many years.  She served on the Merger Steering Committee and chaired the Finance and Legal Committee. Barber said, “I have been a member of the YMCA since I was 2 years old.  The YMCA was also my first job. I was a gymnastics instructor, swimming instructor and lifeguard. I remain grateful for the opportunity to volunteer and enjoy my membership at the YMCA. The merger will definitely be a good thing for not only the members and employees, but our community. We’ll be able to share best practices.”

Morgan said, “The idea to partner with neighboring Y’s was identified during separate strategic planning sessions conducted at both YMCA Associations 3-5 years ago. With Cannon Y CEO Ron Davis announcing his planned retirement, discussions began as to whether it made sense to merge these two healthy, equal YMCAs. The boards soon realized that the values and culture of both YMCA’s were very similar and that the common goal of keeping the YMCA’s Christian mission paramount could be achieved better together. Hence, the theme of this merger soon became, “Better Together.”

Davis has been the Cannon CEO for more than 15 years and his official retirement is May 1, 2020. He said, “Other than leaving a place I love, my biggest concern about retirement was finding the right new CEO. One who loves God, the community and the work of the Y. I am now at peace. Jamie is the perfect person at the right time and our two Y’s are better and stronger together, as one. Godspeed to the Rowan-Cabarrus YMCA! “

Morgan continued, “With the help of YMCA of the USA and the NC YMCA State Alliance, a year’s worth of due diligence was completed by Rowan and Cannon Y volunteers and staff. An official vote to merge was approved unanimously by both YMCA boards in September of this year. The total process took about three years from the first discussions, but most of the real work happened in late 2018 and 2019. Many thanks to the countless hours that both YMCA boards put in to make this dream become a reality. The local communities served by the newly formed Rowan-Cabarrus YMCA will be the big winner as all six branches will be better positioned to serve like never before.”

Current Vice Chair of the Cannon board, Wally Safrit said, “My dad was Executive Director of the Kannapolis Y for about 20 years and spent his entire adult life after college working for YMCAs.  I think he would have supported this merger believing, as I do, that the Cabarrus and Rowan Y’s will be stronger and more able to meet community needs as a result.”

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