Community leaders to protest South DeKalb YMCA closure today (March 31) at 5 p.m.
Angela Graham, chair of the South DeKalb YMCA Advisory Board

Angela Graham

South DeKalb Y hit hard by dwindling membership, youth programs and partnerships


DECATUR—Hoping to halt a possible closure of the South DeKalb Family YMCA, a group of community members and YMCA advisory board members are holding a public protest on Wednesday, March 31, 5 p.m., to keep the facility open. The rally will take place outside the South DeKalb YMCA at 2565 Snapfinger Road in Decatur.


“The very idea of closing down a centralized, safe place where families, seniors and young people can congregate as we come out of this year-long pandemic is appalling and a disgrace to the community that has supported this YMCA for decades,” said Angela Graham, chair of the South DeKalb YMCA Advisory Board. “What we are essentially seeing is an organization that has placed profits above people and is trying to turn its back on families who have supported the Y. This act is a blatant contradiction to the YMCA’s mission and core values inclusive of caring, honesty, respect, inclusion and responsibility.”


Prompted by a Metro YMCA’s liaison’s communication regarding the facility closing its doors on Thursday, April 1, Graham and other local leaders quickly galvanized support to express concerns with the YMCA’s divestment in a facility that promotes health and wellness in an underserved community. Activist Derrick Boazman, former South DeKalb YMCA Advisory Board Chair and current DeKalb County Clerk of Superior Court, Debra DeBerry, Commissioner Larry Johnson, area faith leaders and more are calling on south DeKalb residents to stand in unity to stop the closure of the local family-centered facility.


“We have basically been blindsided by these covert actions to close the South DeKalb YMCA under the haze of the current pandemic,” said DeBerry. “We not only want the Y to remain open but for their Metro YMCA leadership to take a serious look at how their actions and values are misaligned and essentially contributed to the underutilization of the current facility. We intend to fight for the Y to stay a part of our community as people of all ages look to enjoy life after the current health crisis subsides.”

DeKalb County Commissioner Mereda Davis Johnson, said permanently closing the facility  would be devastating for the community.

“We stand with the South DeKalb YMCA Advisory Board and the community to keep South DeKalb YMCA open. I have been a member of the South DeKalb YMCA on Snapfinger Road now for over 30 years and have enjoyed the community involvement and camraderie among its members,” said Johnson.  “Our son and daughter have attended summer camp there.  It would devastate this community if this facility is closed.  We must do everything we can to help it remain open.”



The YMCA of Metro Atlanta sent the following response to On Common Ground News:

The YMCA of Metro Atlanta today announced the launch of a deep, wide-reaching Community Needs Assessment for its South DeKalb branch in an initiative designed to align Y offerings with community needs. Beyond COVID-19 relief, recovery programs, and select youth programs, the location will remain temporarily closed during the assessment. The request for proposal process will launch in April and community input will be sought as part of the process. Results are expected by late August/early September.
Over the last decade, the South DeKalb Y has seen dwindling membership, youth program and partnership numbers. Between 2011 and 2019, the branch has witnessed declines in family membership (-31%), adult membership (-40%), and programs – afterschool (-83%), youth basketball (-71%) and youth soccer (-63%). 
From the late 1980s to the early 2000s, the South Dekalb Y was a bustling and thriving segment of the community. The location is where the YMCA of Metro Atlanta first launched its afterschool and early learning programs. The Community Needs Assessment is intended to reinvigorate the South DeKalb Y and serve as a true community resource center.
“At the Y, we hold ourselves to a high level of reach and impact in every community we serve,” said Lauren Koontz, president and CEO of the YMCA of Metro Atlanta. “Launching the Community Needs Assessment will allow us to truly understand what programs the community wants, needs and will use.”
Throughout the pandemic, the Y has provided childcare for front line workers and food distribution at the South DeKalb Y. The location will continue to offer targeted programming during the Community Needs Assessment to assist with COVID-19 recovery response.
“Our desire to be both a community anchor and a solution-oriented organization focusing on the needs of South DeKalb residents remains steadfast,” said Koontz. “We will invite and engage a broad spectrum of residents, civic groups, churches, educators and elected officials to participate in the process and we look forward to their input and the results of the study.”
During the Community Needs Assessment, South DeKalb Y members will have access to all Y locations across metro Atlanta and are encouraged to visit and enjoy nearby branches, including those closest: Wade Walker Family YMCA, East Lake Family YMCA and Decatur Family YMCA. 


Community leaders ask that residents send letters  demanding the Metro YMCA reconsider their plans to close the South DeKalb YMCA by emailing Lauren Koontz at The rally is open to all members of the public.


Rally For South DeKalb YMCA Details

Date: Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Time: 5 p.m. – 6 p.m.

Location: South DeKalb YMCA, 2565 Snapfinger Rd. Decatur, GA 30034 (location may shift in the event of inclement weather. Please contact Terrell Gibbs, 404-368-2802, for any location shifts.)

Speakers and Organizers: South DeKalb YMCA Advisory Board Chair Angela Graham, Former South DeKalb YMCA Advisory Chair Debra DeBerry, Commissioner Larry Johnson and more

One comment

  • S

    March 31, 2021 at 12:11 pm

    Shame on the YMCA.

    Just like others have said,this facility have been an integral part of the South DeKalb community since I can remember. Just like Mr. Boazman said ,some people are using the Covid pandemic to hide other cowardly motives in closing a facilities/ businesses.

    What make the YMCA think that the people of South DeKalb don’t need it? Recently,I passed by Shoal Creek Park a couple of times.In spite of the pandemic,I seen kids and/ or adults having parties( I wish they didn’t),a baseball game and skateboarding. Someone asked me was Exchange Park open so that they could use their track?

    Mind you that using their facilities are free as long as you’re a resident of DeKalb County but it just goes to show that people will use any facility to improve their health and / or have fun whether it’s the YMCA or locally funded rec centers. I’ve been the YMCAs on East Lake,Wesley Chapel and Evans Mill . Before the Pandemic ,they centers look quite utilized to me and yes,some people may be afraid to use them because of Covid but you shouldn’t have to close the center like that. If gyms and recreational centers..wellness places that are also losing money …are trying to stay afloat,the YMCA should be able to do the same.


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