By ADRIAN GLASS-MOORE / Assistant Editor
The Sabes JCC in St. Louis Park and the St. Paul JCC have joined forces.
The two organizations, each offering fitness facilities and many other services, became the combined Minnesota JCC on Jan. 1.
The Minnesota JCC Foundation was also formed, whose sole function is to support the Minnesota JCC. The foundation oversees the JCC’s endowment funds and owns the JCC’s real estate.
The Minnesota JCC comprises two centers: the Capp Center at 1375 St. Paul Avenue in St. Paul, and the Sabes Center at 4330 S. Cedar Lake Rd. in St. Louis Park.
“On the most basic level, what we hope and what we believe is that our members will feel that it’s a seamless transition and… all the programs they love will still be here,” Minnesota JCC CEO Michael Waldman said.
“The whole point of this effort to combine was really to grow the JCC and to be able to use resources differently,” he said. “It’s not to shrink and save money…. We imagine that — not tomorrow, but over some time of working in this new model — we’ll be able to do more and offer new things that people haven’t seen yet or haven’t heard yet from us, and enhance the things that we do and make them better.”
The JCCs entered into a management agreement two years ago and a steering committee was formed to explore the idea of combining.
When the COVID pandemic struck, the steering committee temporarily paused its work. Waldman said that the pandemic showed how well the staff could collaborate.
“Through COVID our staff was working together in really amazing ways that had never happened before,” he said.
For example, “when most camps last summer cancelled, our camp staff got together and created a virtual camp program,” Waldman said. “It was a Twin Cities-wide, amazing program that wound up serving hundreds of kids registered for this program and it was an amazing effort.”
Waldman said the pandemic “highlighted for us where having duplication was wasteful. Even though we knew it, that intensity of COVID really highlighted it. And so we pushed forward [with the merger].”
Asked whether the merger would reduce or increase the number of staff working for the JCC, Waldman answered that “the theory behind the combination is growth. We have… hundreds of employees. People join the staff and leave the staff for all kinds of reasons all the time, but the driving force behind combining was not ‘Cut positions and save money.’ It was ‘Reallocate resources and grow.’”
The general response to the merger has been positive, Waldman said.
“People who are involved are proud and happy to see the communities across the river working together and moving this initiative forward,” he said. “There’s a ton of pride in the JCC historically in both communities. And I think what mostly matters to people is that the JCCs continue to be strong and continue to serve the community and make an impact in people’s lives.”
The Minnesota JCC is planning for summer camp this year.
“People are registering and we are looking forward with great excitement to the day when people feel ready to be gathering in person again and are able to do that,” Waldman said. “That is really kind of the core of the JCC —bringing people together for fun, and for education, and for life-changing experiences.”