Charlie Davis

“Count it all joy, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” – James: 1-2-4


I am not sure how it was for you, but I thought last week was the craziest of the last 36. To recap, the governor announced there would be no indoor fitness activities beginning Tuesday, November 17, though continued operation of our pools was permitted due to the safety environment created by chlorine (thank you for that information, Amanda Collins, Lakewood Family YMCA Senior Aquatics Director). While we chose to shut down all membership accounts when we first closed our operations back in March, we decided to keep membership active this time around. We believe this decision was justified for many reasons, the most obvious being the pools remaining open – and there are numerous other reasons worth highlighting, because it captures the story of how you have seized the moment.

As soon as the governor announced we had to close the fitness operations within our community centers, our team sprang into action to mobilize our response. Brian Flattum (Chief Operating Officer) and the entire operations team began designing the plan as soon as the governor was done with his announcement Sunday morning. Michael Marquez (University Y Student Center Executive Director) and the entire health and well-being team were moving on two fronts: planning for outdoor fitness classes and, in some cases, planning for outdoor exercise equipment and/or outdoor weight-training equipment. In addition, Michael, Lynn Wilmot-Stenehjem (Association Arts Director), and Michelle LaRue (Director of Strategic Engagement and Marketing) began mobilizing the entire virtual experience effort. We all know that our virtual programs are far more advanced than they were back in March, in both quality and the number of classes offered, but on this occasion, Lynn and her team mobilized over 100 classes originally scheduled for in-person to the virtual platform, all in less than a week! Different from back in March, operations staff were all quick to put their programs on the virtual platform – from gymnastics, to outdoor environmental education, to the arts, to health and well-being, to programs for middle school students in our Center for Community Impact program, to weight loss programs, to community café classes for active older adults. Today, our Y is ready to offer a complete schedule of services virtually. It is nothing short of miraculous, and to complete the transition in a timeframe of less than a week makes it that much more spectacular. It is important to note that we will now offer these programs to only our paying members, except for a few Facebook Live classes, which are available to our on-hold members and community members. We are very hopeful that restricting these services to paying members will provide additional value to a person’s membership, enough to want to stay active as a paying member.

In addition to the total transformation of the virtual programming, the response from our community center teams was just as phenomenal. Even though the weather is wet and cold, Brian and the operations team responded to offer outdoor programming with the deployment of tents and, in the case of the Mel Korum Family YMCA, the use of its outdoor sports park. The teams would not be deterred and they rolled out the winter wonderland of classes and equipment for members, and the members were ecstatic. Every single member of our team had one thing on their mind, and that was to do whatever we could to keep as many members engaged and bring value to the membership account. Everyone was working in unison, focused on a common goal, and thinking of new ways to stay relevant. It was, and is, a tour de force by our team; nothing is impossible. In my opinion, our two greatest accomplishments these past 253 days have been the cohesiveness in which we are working, all pulling together on the rope, and the innovation with which we are working. We know we need to do everything we can to stay relevant, and we are doing that in miraculous fashion.

It is important for us to take note of the cohesiveness in which we are currently operating, because it will be critical for this to continue as we move out of this crisis. I have highlighted the tremendous value of the Friday “Staying Connected” calls and the leadership Brian has given our organization as being vital in bringing us together as an organization. Patrick Lencioni calls it “the Advantage” to create such a healthy environment, but it will be the strength we build upon in the future. I celebrate that YMCA Camp Seymour has been a vital part of our operations model. Camp has played a critical role in bringing value to the membership model. We will need to evaluate that as we evaluate what the new membership model will be. Camp offers great value to our community; why wouldn’t we include it into a new model? In addition, YMCA Child Care has been in the spotlight, offering essential services to the community throughout these past eight months. The effort by the Child Care team has been nothing short of heroic and now, more than ever before, they are seen as being a vital partner to the schools and the families in the education of youth, as well as being part of the foundation of our economy by enabling parents to work while their children receive quality support. Our Child Care team has been amazing, and we need to work hard to strengthen the model. Childcare is necessary, but it needs to be supported so that it is a sustainable service to the community.

Last Thursday, amidst the turmoil of adapting to the new guidelines governing our operations, our YMCA Center for Community Impact was celebrating its 10-year anniversary with a virtual breakfast/fundraising event. It was a phenomenal event, miraculously pulled off through the amazing team effort of the financial development team, Michelle, Lynn, Michael, and the entire CCI team. The feedback was extremely positive, celebrating the great work being done in the community by this incredible team:

  • Chris Spivey, Executive Director of Community Learning Centers and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
  • Amber Evans-Wynn, Senior Program Director
  • Courtney Austin, Chronic Disease Program Coordinator
  • Don Brevik, Youth and Government Director
  • Earl Williams, Brotherhood Instructor
  • Jayme Crumpton, Teen Program Coordinator
  • Jenna Thomas, Senior Program Director
  • Lincoln McClain, Program Director
  • Mike Hankins, Brotherhood Instructor
  • Rob Jones, Brotherhood Instructor
  • Shontia Copeland-Walton, Program Director
  • Susan Buell, Association Director of Health Initiatives
  • Wyatt George, Program Director
  • Xochil Springer, Pacific Region Conference Site Director

It was most gratifying to celebrate Don’s career, which has been a lifetime of devotion to youth development. Congratulations, Don, you are one of the great stories of our Y’s legacy; the video compilation created by Luke DeMonnin (Videographer and Photographer), assisted by Toby Roberts (Association Director of Philanthropy), was a great tribute to your 37 years of dedication.

The week ended on a high note for me, with our staying connected call focusing entirely on gratitude; Brian set aside time for all staff to share. It was inspiring to hear everyone give thanks to their cohorts, acknowledging the heroic efforts from everyone. We have faced adverse conditions for 253 days, and the energy and enthusiasm from all of you is a clear indication that you are undaunted in your desire to bring impact into people’s lives and keep our Y strong. We will look back on this chapter in our lives and in the history of our Y, and draw great satisfaction from our collective commitment. You are the warriors of the YMCA of Pierce and Kitsap Counties. I am truly in awe. God bless you and your families. Stay safe and be strong.