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Barness Family JCC ends membership fees
 
The Barness Family Jewish Community Center in Chandler has eliminated its membership fees.

The BFJCC determined that the membership fees - which had been required to attend the center's preschool, day school and camp - were a barrier to people participating in JCC programs, according to Meg Gabay, BFJCC marketing director.

"In this economy, we wanted to be able to continue to offer the high-quality programs and opportunities to all families in the East Valley, without these economic barriers," Gabay told Jewish News in an e-mail.

Members were notified in August 2008 that membership fees would be eliminated as of Jan. 1, 2009, and were given the choice to apply the balance to their account, receive a reimbursement or donate the balance to the JCC, Gabay said.

To not have to pay the membership fee "is a tremendous financial relief," said Ilana Sims of Gilbert, whose daughters, Katie, 9, and Ellie, 5, attend the center's camp. Both girls previously attended the school, and she said the JCC "is like a family."

"We love going there for any programs that they have," she said, and "being a single parent, I still want to be able to send my kids to a Jewish camp."

Annual membership fees ranged from $50 for seniors and $150 for individuals to $250 for couples, $300 for a single parent family and $425 for a family.

This was in addition to registration and tuition fees. An average of 500 families participate in the center's preschool, day school and camp, Gabay said.

At the time the BFJCC eliminated its membership fees, it had 250-300 members, and membership fees made up only about 1 percent of the center's annual budget, according to Executive Director Steve Tepper. Additional funds will be raised through an annual campaign that started last month and event-based fundraising, he said.

"We don't plan a reduction in service related to the elimination of the membership fee. ... We plan on offering all the same services and hopefully more to a broader audience. The more people we can engage, the better off our community will be."

About 16 percent of the Valley's Jewish population lives in the area served by the BFJCC, which includes Chandler, Gilbert, Mesa, Tempe and the Ahwatukee section of Phoenix, according to the Jewish population study conducted by the Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix in 2002, the latest data available.

This translates to 7,200 Jewish households, according to Fred Zeidman, assistant executive director of the federation.

A large number of these families are unaffiliated, intermarried or both, said Tepper, and although the financial requirement may not have been a burden on them, membership was another barrier that they had to cross in order to participate in a Jewish program. "We wanted to eliminate those (barriers)."

All JCC programs - which include a preschool, a day school, summer camp and programs for children, adults and families - are open to community members regardless of religious affiliation. The JCC is located at 908 N. Alma School Road, Chandler.

Call 480-897-0588, e-mail info@evjcc.org or visit evjcc.org.