DANVILLE — Steadily declining memberships over several years and increasing costs weighed heavily on the Danville Community Center (DACC). Thinning finances meant staff had to cut expenses, seek grants and raise money to try to stay afloat.
Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
Closures as the number of COVID cases rose cut monthly income from the center's programs, and fewer people returned when the doors reopened. Memberships dropped.
Now with an influx of donations from Geisinger, the Danville Business Alliance, local businesses and private contributors, DACC is keeping its head above water as it tries to rebuild member rolls.
In a letter to the editor, the DACC board noted that membership is down more than 30 percent over the past three years
"The cost to operate a large facility with an indoor pool has only increased over that time," the letter stated. "Our Director of Operations, Heather Laubach, and her dedicated staff have worked diligently to pare expenses, secure grants and engage in fundraising to help offset the declining revenue trend. Despite these efforts, cash shortfalls have occurred, and funds remain very tight."
Board President Andy Nied said Geisinger, Hawkins Chevrolet, the DBA and others stepped up to hold the center over until it can secure a steady funding stream.
"There were a lot of individual contributors," Nied said. "It's all been very difficult. Heather has done a fantastic job. (Staff members) have done a great job to fight our way out of it."
Laubach said DACC's current membership totals 1,555. Ten years ago, 3,500 people belonged to the center.
But she said the rolls are slowly growing again.
"We're seeing a difference in people coming back in the last several weeks," Laubach said. "People are getting more comfortable, getting vaccinated. Whether they're new or returning, I'd love to see people coming in with their families."
The center, which reopened last month, has been following federal and state guidelines to keep everyone safe, Laubach said.
"We require masks, non-contact temperature check," she said.
Those coming in also are asked if they have had a fever, a cough or if they were exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID.
Laubach said DACC class sizes have been reduced to maintain social distancing.
Old friend ill
One center volunteer felt its financial situation was so dire in September that he compared the center to an old friend who is ill.
Dr. Herb Ingraham said in a letter to the editor that the center was in danger of closing within a month if it did not raise more money to stay afloat.
"Sometimes, an old friend passes away unexpectedly," wrote Ingraham, chairman of Geisinger's Department of Ophthalmology. "Maybe we had lost touch, but their death stings us still, and we think, 'Oh, if only I knew our time was so short.' The Danville community is about to lose such a friend, but if we want to, this friend can still be saved."
Ingraham urged readers to become a member and use the center right away or in a few months, or to make a donation.
In their letter, board members thanked the community for its support through memberships, donations, bequests and by volunteering.
The board members said they are developing a strategic plan to ensure the financial stability of the 35-year-old center.
"Long-term viability requires a reinvigoration in memberships and a refresh of our facilities. If you are a member, thank you for your loyal support," the letter states. "If you are not a member, please come join and be a part of this rebirth. Our vision is that the DACC will be a hub in the greater Danville community for recreation, social activities, and learning opportunities for people of all ages and walks of life."