When it comes to repairing the roof, things may finally be looking up for Brainerd Family YMCA CEO Shane Riffle.

The nonprofit’s insurance company denied the organization’s claim after a July storm caused an estimated $148,000 in damages, but a couple of area businesses are trying to raise the funds.

“I know the Y does a lot of good things for a lot of people,” said Chris Schucker, co-owner of Digital Horizons, a Brainerd-based provider of technology solutions for homes and businesses.

Several inches of heavy rainfall caused the Brainerd Family YMCA’s drop ceiling to fall down, and water came rushing in and flooded the structure on Oak and South Sixth streets.

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“The claim was officially denied,” Riffle said of the significant structural and cosmetic damages. “Our attorney who we were consulting with advised us that it really wasn’t worth our money and time to pursue it … so I think we’re just gonna move on, and our board agreed to do that.”

CTC and Digital Horizons are now reaching out to as many area businesses as possible, asking them to donate $1,000 each and encouraging them to ask their vendors, clients, neighboring businesses and partners to donate in the “business-to-business” fundraising campaign.

Digital Horizons and CTC each donated $1,000 to kick-start the fundraiser. Schucker said CTC CEO/General Manager Kristi Westbrock did not need much convincing.

“I said to her, ‘You know what? What if Digital Horizons donated $1,000? Could CTC do the same thing and could we turn it into something, you know, bigger than both of our companies could do on their own?’ And she was all for it,” Schucker said.

Chris Schucker is co-owner of Digital Horizons in Brainerd. Chris Schucker / Digital Horizons
Chris Schucker is co-owner of Digital Horizons in Brainerd. Chris Schucker / Digital Horizons

Letters were recently mailed to Brainerd Lakes Chamber of Commerce members arguing the Brainerd Family YMCA has “stepped up when businesses needed it” and so “it’s time for businesses to step up.”

“There’s been this really cool, business, grassroots effort to try and raise the money to cover the costs, and they came up with the phrase ‘Let’s rebuild the Y,’” Riffle said.

Schucker credits Westbrock for devoting a lot of CTC’s resources to creating a fundraising website devoted to the grassroots campaign involving area businesses.

“I was simply just the one to bring the idea to CTC, and CTC thankfully has kind of taken it and run with a lot of it,” Schucker said of CTC, a provider of internet, television, phone, and information technology service to the Brainerd lakes area and other rural locations.

Schucker also said he read a Brainerd Dispatch article about Michigan Millers Insurance denying the insurance claim by the Christian-based, youth-focused nonprofit. The story motivated him to start the fundraiser to repair Brainerd Family YMCA’s roof.

Shane Riffle, CEO of the Brainerd Family YMCA, touches the wood floor in a workout room Monday, July 20, after water poured in Friday night. The floor is beginning to ripple with the high moisture content. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch
Shane Riffle, CEO of the Brainerd Family YMCA, touches the wood floor in a workout room Monday, July 20, after water poured in Friday night. The floor is beginning to ripple with the high moisture content. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

“We’ve been very fortunate throughout COVID that we stayed healthy, but we’ve also been very, very busy and to me it just seemed like a fairly easy thing to do to start something to kind of pay back some of the good fortune that we’ve had when so many others haven’t,” Schucker said.

Riffle said of Schucker and Westbrock, “They’re making phone calls to business people that they know. They’re going to be putting ads in the newspaper. … I think they’ve reached out to Hubbard Radio, so they’re trying to make this a big communitywide effort.”

The Brainerd Lakes Area Community Foundation also announced in July it would match financial donations made to the Brainerd Family YMCA to help cover cleanup and repair costs related to the July 17 storm.

Donations made to the YMCA for flooding damage repair and capital improvements will be matched dollar for dollar, up to a total of $10,000. Donations can be made directly to the Brainerd Family YMCA or to Brainerd Lakes Area Community Foundation, with designation to the “Brainerd Family YMCA Fund.”

“To me, it’s a great human interest story about the community being there after we were there for the community,” Riffle said of the latest efforts by CTC and Digital Horizons to raise funds and awareness about the repairs.

Shane Riffle
Shane Riffle

The Brainerd YMCA serves more than 725 children and their families annually with after-school programs and summer camps while also promoting youth development, healthy living and social responsibility, according to officials.

“The current pandemic forced the Y to scale back their services, putting a strain on their finances. This flood damage has further exacerbated the problem and put them in a very precarious position,” according to the letter sent by Schucker and Westbrock.

The Brainerd Family YMCA reopened its doors in June after temporarily closing because of the coronavirus pandemic, but the downtown structure suffered major damage in July’s storm.

“We just felt like it was a pretty small gesture — not to say $1,000 is a small amount of money — but it was something that I felt was going to start something that would make a bigger impact than just $1,000 on its own,” Schucker said of asking businesses to donate.

Schucker said he learned Westbrock and her husband regularly visit the Brainerd Family YMCA after approaching her with the idea of the business-to-business fundraising campaign.

The Brainerd Family YMCA sustained water damage from a heavy rain storm Friday night in Brainerd. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch
The Brainerd Family YMCA sustained water damage from a heavy rain storm Friday night in Brainerd. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

“And shortly after that conversation, I just had some private discussions with other business owners and individuals that I knew that might be interested in participating, and I got good feedback from them, and so we just kind of moved forward with the plan,” Schucker said.

For more information about Digital Horizons and CTC’s “business-to-business” fundraising campaign, visit www.goctc.com/ymca.

How you can help

To make a tax-deductible donation to the Brainerd Family YMCA, visit brainerdlakesymca.org/give.

Or make checks made payable to “Brainerd Family YMCA” with “disaster relief” written in the memo line and send them to the Brainerd Family YMCA, 602 Oak St., Brainerd, MN 56401.

FRANK LEE may be reached at 218-855-5863 or at frank.lee@brainerddispatch.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchFL.