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Lake County Y members await return of their donations

The Northern Lake YMCA located 2000 Western Avenue Waukegan. | Thomas Delany Jr.~Sun-Times Media

The Northern Lake YMCA located at 2000 Western Avenue in Waukegan. | Thomas Delany Jr.~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: March 2, 2013 7:02AM

Gehl and Doris Devore of Waukegan aren’t getting the vigorous exercise they used to get now that the Lake County Family YMCA has closed and so far, they aren’t getting their money back either.

It’s been a month since the Devores have dipped a toe in the Y’s indoor pool, where they once swam and aquacized every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and they’re still waiting for the return of the $1,000 they donated to keep the place from closing due to an estimated $6 million deficit.

While the Y branch in Vernon Hills was purchased by its village, the Waukegan Y closed on Dec. 31.

The Devores have been members of the Northern Lake YMCA, 3000 Western Ave., Waukegan, since it opened in 1987. They and an unknown number of other donors dropped cash and checks at the facility during the last three months it was in operation after Y officials gave public assurances that contributions would be returned if the Y closed.

But trustee Mike Baratta, who works for Chicago-based Vector Consulting LLC, and who is overseeing liquidation of Y assets, said on Tuesday what amounts to “Hold your horses.”

At issue is $17,300 in undeposited checks. It’s Baratta’s job to determine the status of the money as property of the Lake County Family YMCA Trust for the Benefit of Creditors. He said he will seek legal advice or a possible court order to determine if and when donors are to be repaid.

Some checks were donated to the Y only to be cashed “on the condition that the YMCA Board of Directors determine that the total funds raised was enough to address the immediate financial concerns and ensure longer-term sustainability of the YMCA,” Baratta said in a prepared statement on Tuesday. Other checks were written on the condition that all Y properties in Waukegan were released from all mortgages, notes and other obligations associated with Y-related loans.

“Others may have been donated with other conditions or with no conditions,” Baratta stated.

Retired Judge David Hall of Waukegan, whose forebears helped bring the YMCA to Waukegan in 1892 and who undertook a 100-mile walkathon fund-raiser Dec. 1 to help save it, collected an estimated $88,000, mostly in pledges, but also in checks, aimed at purchasing the Y building.

“The Y board, through their employees, promised that those would be mailed back in case of closure,” Hall said. “The Y has no right to those checks.”

Baratta said donors, excluding those who anonymously dropped several hundred in cash into a locked drop box, will soon receive claim forms that upon return will be used to verify their donations.

“If any donor believes that he or she is entitled to the return of a check, he or she should complete the claim form and return it to the trustee,” Baratta said.

Hall countered that there should be no such requirement of members and donors who want a refund.

“People should just get the checks back,” Hall said.

Meanwhile, the Devores ­− he’s 96 and she’s 92 − are left wondering if they should put a stop-payment order at a cost of $35 on the check they wrote in the spirit of generosity they’re so well known for.

“We just thought it (the check) would help a little bit,” Doris Devore said. “We’re sorry it didn’t.”

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