Mary Jane Hannah-Fields doesn’t want much: a place where neighborhood kids can play basketball on weekends, and a place where school-age children can spend time in the afternoon doing something other than watching television.

But in Dallas, in 1992, that may be asking too much.

Hannah-Fields is the executive of the YWCA’s Central Branch, which serves East Dallas from its building at 4621 Ross Avenue. She is preparing her budget for the branch’s annual March fund-raising kickoff, and she would like nothing better than to include those two activities in her 1992 plans.

“But we don’t have the money,” she says.

That is a familiar lament these days, especially among the private, non-profit organizations providing what passes for social services in Dallas after 12 years of state and federal cutbacks. Throughout the City, these groups are doing without, and the YWCA is no exception.

This is not bleeding-heart propaganda, either. Hannah-Fields’ budget is about $700,000 annually (or about what the Italian marble tile cost at the Meyerson Symphony Center down the street), and she points out her group isn’t ailing as badly as many others.

But there is no denying the YWCA needs more money. For instance, more than half its budget comes from program fees, which means the people who use Y services usually end up paying for them. This wouldn’t be a problem, except that much of the Y’s constituency doesn’t have the money to pay for services.

“In the neighborhood, we can’t raise fees every year to pay for new programs, because then people will be left out,” Hannah-Fields says. “And we feel we should help as many people as possible.”

For example, the budget provides for a three-tier childcare program, but it doesn’t provide money for scholarships to enable the working poor who live in the Y’s neighborhood to participate. It includes money for the branch’s well-regarded adaptive aquatics program, which helps rehabilitate victims of strokes or auto accidents who can’t afford pricier programs elsewhere. But it doesn’t include money to open the Y’s gym for Friday and Saturday night basketball.

If the 1990s are going to be a family-oriented, old-fashioned-values kind of era (which all of the ad agencies are claiming), there is no reason the Y can’t afford to launch a scholarship scheme for its daycare program or find the money to start a weekend basketball schedule.

After all, only seven percent of the Y’s budget comes from membership fees, and only three percent comes from contributions.

“Our real job is education,” Hannah-Fields says. “The people we work with don’t need handouts, but a hand up. That’s what we have to make the public understand. And if they understand, they will help us.”

Maybe it’s time we started understanding.


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