PIERREFONDS-ROXBORO – “Keep our gym,” chanted members of the West Island Jewish Community Centre on Thursday, after being told earlier this week that that the WIJCC would be closing down in October.
Members are upset that this could be the end of zumba lessons, after-school activities for children, and Chrismukkah parties.
Enrollment has gone down, however, and management cited changing demographics as a possible explanation.
“The demographic shift has been a decline in amount of Jewish people that have resided in the West Island area,” said Ethel Smith, interim Executive Director of the YM/YWHCA, which manages the community centre.
She explained it was mostly people in their mid-thirties to early-forties that were leaving.
There are thus fewer kids signing up at the centre. There’s also a number of new, cheaper gyms in the area that older members are joining.
Still, on Thursday, members argued they should have been consulted.
“I don’t think its very fair that we just get a letter saying ‘Here, we’re closing’, ” said Peter Zeigler, a member of the WIJCC.
The community centre has been open for thirty years, and for many has become much more than just a gym.
“I love this place,” said Vincent Rojas. “It’s honestly a true community. Everyone’s a family.”
“I see the classes are packed, I see the gym is packed and I think this is just a community centre that is being forgotten,” said Pat Libling.
“We want to work together to keep it open.”
As a result, members have decided to launch a petition asking executives of the YM/YWHA to come meet with them to find a way of keeping the centre open. Management said there’s not much they can do.
“It’s not growing, it’s not maintaining status-quo, it is declining,” said Smith.
The government-funded daycare at the centre will remain open, but the WIJCC is already beginning to think about relocating some activities to a nearby Synagogue.