“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial.” – James 1:12
This past week was a challenging one for me. Late Thursday night, I sat up in bed reflecting on the future, wondering whether our Y would persevere through the adverse circumstances we continue to face (though I know from experience, things always appear darker in the wee hours of the night). Thursday’s membership report was a step back from the positive results reported by Association Member Experience Director Tiffany Stewart-Harris the week prior, and the facility usage report was similarly less positive. In addition, it has been more and more difficult to fill key positions that have become vacant due to recent staff changes. This past week, Association Property Management and Facility Development Director Loren Johnson reported that the repair of the Tacoma Center wall was more significant than we had originally anticipated. On top of that, it is not clear if insurance coverage is available for the claim. As I reflected on these circumstances, I remembered what other CEOs had been reporting; in particular, they noted how difficult it was for them after the first month of reopening excitement wore off. It was a tough week, and my mind was getting the best of me.
As dark as three o’clock in the morning felt, my mind quickly shifted to the positive results we heard during the week. In a meeting with the governor’s office on Monday morning, I received positive assurance we would receive $950,000 from the state for the emergency services our YMCA Child Care team delivered to healthcare workers and first responders from March through June. In addition, I reflected on Association Arts Director Lynn Wilmot-Stenehjem’s report of successful participation in the virtual arts classes, and on the continued positive reports coming from member participation at YMCA Camp Seymour on the weekends. I was also thrilled with the Seymour Scholars program offered to Key Peninsula families in support of distance learning, and the tremendous fundraising efforts led by Planned Giving Director Carol Kowalski to support this program. I then remembered Chief Operating Officer Brian Flattum, Association Member Experience and Operations Director Tara Bywater, and Aquatics Director Hannah Martinson had opened the pool at the Tacoma Center YMCA, and the outpouring of gratitude from the downtown community that followed. By four o’clock, I was feeling better about the future of our Y, but it was a reminder that we are in a war and we need to be mentally tough in order to remain hopeful, which is critical for our ultimate success.
Last Friday, Association Mission Director Janele Nelson, Chief Financial Officer Toko Thompson, and I met with two of our board members to share the progress of our Community Café program. Throughout these past few months, Janele has been working alongside a third-party vendor to develop the platform necessary to deliver this program. It has been a mutually beneficial effort; as we get closer to rolling out the platform, many questions remain to be answered, and the board members gave excellent input (just another example of how the board has been engaged in advancing our Y forward). Our board has consistently played a vital role in navigating the challenges we have faced. It is not an overstatement to say that we would not be in as good a position as we are had we not had the involvement of our board. I have said this many times: the contributions from our board have been invaluable. We are lucky to have such a strong group of committed volunteers. All that said, the work Janele is leading is very exciting for our Y, adding a critical element to the virtual experience we are developing. As we have already seen with the active older adult community, the community café program is a powerful means to bring people together.
What really turned my mind around to give me hope for our future was when I reflected on the tremendous collaborative effort from all of you. I continue to be in awe of the contributions you are all making to advance our Y. I have shared how thrilled I am with our “Staying Connected” call on Fridays – I love the positive encouragement shared throughout the meeting in the chat box. (I recently discovered the Human Resources team had played an integral role in facilitating the use of the chat feature as a tool to bring fun and energy into the meeting – thank you Human Resources Director Ganetta Booker, Human Resources Generalists Alyssa Dunivan and Ally Galeski, Benefits and Payroll Director Dorita Rogers, and Chief Human Resources Officer Shannon Costanti, for bringing value to the meeting and to the morale of the team.) It is just another example of the many contributions made by everyone on our team, not to mention the daily commitment made by all of you to ensure the safety of our members in all of our programs.
In six weeks, we will roll out our new membership software. Chief Information Officer Bruce Caudill and his CRM team (IT Director Francisco Rivera, MIS Director Ron Johnson, and Tiffany) have been intensely focused on integrating this new software to meet the December 1 go-live date. It is amazing to hear about all the work that has gone into this effort to get us to this point. Soon, we will all be entering the process to ensure we are familiar with the software. The Salesforce software will allow us to do so much more than the previous product we were using, providing us a great deal more capability in our management of the membership data, and ultimately allowing us to be more sophisticated in our service delivery. Having greater understanding of our membership data will enable us to be more strategic in our service. Data analytics is an area that will give us greater impact in serving our membership. This new platform will touch every aspect of our organization, and it will make us more cohesive in the administration of all our business affairs. As we get closer to the go-live date, it will require us to work collaboratively once again to make it a successful rollout, but, as we have been demonstrating throughout these past few months, working together is our strength.
Over the past few weeks, I have been paying closer attention to the virtual component of our operation, seeing the number of programs offered online increase. University Y Student Center Executive Director Michael Marquez has been working with staff across our association to provide a variety of services to our members. These classes are really fun to watch, and I am inspired when observing all the talent we have in our organization. The quality in the delivery has increased steadily as our team has become more experienced working with this medium. I am so proud of the team, and I can really feel the passion and enthusiasm from each instructor. As a result, the number of members participating has increased steadily. Over the next few months, we will upgrade our virtual delivery platform even further, corresponding with the rollout of the new Salesforce membership software. Bruce is working with Michael and the team to coordinate and perfect the virtual platform so we can enhance our member engagement.
Yes, it got a little heavy for me late Thursday night (well, early Friday morning), but the sun definitely rose and it continues to shine brightly on our organization. I recognize that the road is filled with challenges, but I am constantly reminded about the great things happening every day. The one thing I continue to see over and over again – when it gets most challenging, when the results seem most daunting, our team draws together even closer, discovering we have something special. We have each other, and we are stronger together.
Last week, I received an email from Association Director of Health Initiatives Susan Buell. Susan wanted me to know she was working with Director of Strategic Engagement and Marketing Michelle LaRue and her team to promote weight loss classes to members as a value-add to their membership. She shared how inspired she was by the impact Lynn and the arts team are having on membership, and she wanted to do more to make a difference. It is the same message I hear from all of you – you want to contribute to advance our Y, and you want to impact people through one of the most challenging periods of our lives. Thank you for your heroic efforts; I am in awe of your steadfast commitment to each other and to your community. You are all amazing.