Of the Baker City Herald

The annual Baker County Family YMCA auction and banquet that usually occurs this time of year has been cancelled, and as a result the annual budget has been shaved by about $13,000 from the previous year.

But dont think for a minute that the Y will be cutting back on the services it offers to the areas children and, increasingly, their parents. In fact, in at least two ways, services are increasing, YMCA executive director Gary Stalder said.

A basketball league for men 35 and older is set to hoop it up next month, and a boys and girls spring volleyball league for students in grades five through eight will be shoehorned between established, successful basketball and baseball programs, Stalder said.

Since theyll be run by volunteers, each program ought to generate a little additional income, as well as serve a niche group of people who enjoy a little friendly competition.

The auction and banquet, which along with the spring sustaining membership drive represents the Ys main fundraisers each year, had to be cancelled for a variety of reasons, Stalder said. It would have come on the heels of the successful Festival of Trees fundraiser, held by the St. Elizabeth Health Services Foundation. And as it became time to make plans for the annual event, the leadership necessary to make the event a success was not coming forward, he said.

People have full-time jobs and families, some are over-committed, and others have learned to say no, Stalder said.

But the board is looking at a summertime event that could make up some of the shortfall, Stalder said. Chris and Andy Barr plan to offer their ranch for a family fun day in July that will have an auction and also fun activities for the whole family. Tentative plans call for a barbecue, three-legged races, a fishing derby, and more fun events.

The 20-year Y veteran said that not having the auction this year puts added pressure on the sustaining membership drive, which occurs each year in April. The annual budget has already been whittled down from $191,000 to $178,000, and utility bills are markedly higher than they were a year ago. The Y also lost about $9,200 in annual income when the Baker Alternative School stopped using the gym, Stalder said.

The gas bill for heating the gymnasium the Y leases from St. Francis de Sales Cathedral was $1,300 in December and $1,400 in January. As a result, parents and children who use the gym in the morning for the Ys Indoor Park program have learned to bundle up despite being indoors, because the thermostat is kept down until after school, when larger numbers of children arrive at the facility for structured after-school programs.

Baker City grandmother Ivy Nelson said that the Indoor Park program has been a godsend during the days when she cares for her five-year-old grandson, Hunter Gregg.

Vicki Brocato, who was in the cavernous gym thats stocked with what Stalder called those Fred Flinstone tricycles along with her 20-month-old son, Sam, last week, agreed.

He needs a big place like this where he can get his energy out, she said. Hes also learning to play with other kids, which he doesnt get at home.

That program costs parents just $1 per morning to use, Stalder said, and its one that has grown in the four years its been in existence.

Were committed to being there for kids, he said. Weve just got to mind our ps and qs with our budget. Well scrape by.