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JCC members continue paying dues as donation to keep employees paid

Posted at 5:03 PM, May 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-14 19:07:35-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — The Jewish Community Center of Greater Buffalo shut down just days before the New York State PAUSE order went into effect.

Then the phones started to ring.

“There’s tons of members out there that are calling and saying keep charging us we want to support you. We still want to be connected to the JCC,” said Rob Bari, the assistant director of membership.

75% of the community center’s members asked to turn their dues to donations.

Memberships run anywhere from $24.99 to $64.99 and generates about a quarter of the center’s revenue for the year.

“They had the right to suspend their membership, or terminate their membership, or continue to pay and help support our ability to pay staff and make sure the JCC was viable and strong when we reopened,” said executive director Rick Zakalik.

Some members have called and said they can’t afford the full amount, but ask to still be charged half.

Because of the generosity of the not-for-profit’s membership, no employees went without a paycheck as many of the center’s services went virtual.

The Center began offering virtual workout classes, early childhood and after-school programming, help with homework, and discussion opportunities for seniors online.

“Even participants in our early childhood programs and our after school programs, by and large, continued to support the agency.”

The JCC used the unemployment system for about two weeks before recieving a PPP loan which will help the center continue distributing paychecks for the next 8 weeks.

“I’ve been saying it’s either going to be a difficult year or it’s going to be a disastrous year,” said Zakalik.

But now as some parts of the state un-PAUSE, the JCC is preparing to reopen operations and get back to taking care of its members — even the ones who are still out of work.

“If they ask for it they will receive up to 6 months of no-pay membership.”

Zakalik says the difference between his facility and others is that they’re a mission-based agency.

“We have a mission to serve the populations of Western New York with programs and services that improve lives.”