Denver YMCA gives staff talking points to handle Stapleton renaming questions

A spokesperson said the YMCA has been receiving questions from the community since it was announced last week that the Downtown Denver YMCA would take the name of Stapleton Jr.

The Downtown Denver YMCA, Jan. 23, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

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The Downtown Denver YMCA, Jan. 23, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) denver; colorado; denverite; kevinjbeaty;
The Downtown Denver YMCA, Jan. 23, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Employees of the YMCA of Metropolitan Denver recently received a letter and list of talking points from senior leadership regarding the renaming of the Downtown Denver YMCA for Benjamin F. Stapleton Jr.

The letter addresses the 2016 donation of $1 million by the Harmes C. Fishback Foundation Trust, the renovations it will fund in 2018 and the new name that will come with it.

It is important that we continue to educate our community collectively on the fact that the branch will honor the legacy of Stapleton Jr., and not the Stapleton family or other individuals with the Stapleton name,” the letter says. “I ask you, as leaders of our branch, help us by sharing this message with members.”

A spokesperson said the YMCA has been receiving questions from the community since it was announced last week that the Downtown Denver YMCA would take the name of Stapleton Jr., a supporter of the YMCA — and son of the former Denver mayor with Ku Klux Klan connections, Benjamin F. Stapleton Sr.

Those calls, the spokesperson said, are being fielded by senior leadership and Executive Director Melissa Bowen.

The letter sent to YMCA staff reads, in part:

Many of you likely heard the name of the branch will also be changing once construction is complete. The new name will be the Benjamin F. Stapleton, Jr. Downtown YMCA. Stapleton Jr. was a 40-year volunteer and supporter of the YMCA of Metro Denver, as well as a respected member of the Denver community. In renaming the branch, we hope to honor his commitment to improving our community for all individuals.

Despite the positive influence Stapleton Jr. had on our community before his death in 1993, some members of our community have expressed concerns about the renaming of the branch. These concerns are directly tied to the unfortunate history associated with Stapleton Jr.’s father — Benjamin Stapleton, Sr., a former Mayor of Denver (1923-1931 and 1935-1947).

The accompanying list of talking points and frequently asked questions covers details of the donation and renovation and directly addresses the Stapleton name issue several times. The provided language emphasizes that, “Although they share the same name, they are not the same person, and Benjamin F. Stapleton Jr. does not share his father’s values nor are they shared or condoned by the YMCA of Metro Denver.”

It also explains that the Harmes C. Fishback Foundation Fund is run by the Stapleton family and says that Stapleton Jr. was chosen “for his deep-seated commitment to improve the local community for all individuals” and “his commitment to our organization and his choice to live beyond the discriminatory beliefs of his family’s previous generations.”

Lastly, the FAQ section says that the name change has nothing to do with Colorado State Treasurer Walker Stapleton’s campaign for governor — a race that will come to a close one month after the renamed Downtown Denver YMCA has its “grand reopening.”

Ashley Dean

Author: Ashley Dean

Ashley Dean is the assistant editor and culture reporter for Denverite. She previously covered music and did some copy editing for the Denver Post, the Colorado Daily and the Daily Camera. She's from New York, likes bourbon straight and is happy that Kanye seems happy. She dreams of someday holding the title of Nightlife Mayor. Find her at adean@denverite.com, 303-502-2804 or @AshleyDean.