“Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.” – 1 Corinthians 16:13
T minus 14 days and counting. I have switched the paradigm and am now looking ahead. Of course, it is not as easy as that.
Since Friday, I have had the line, “I can’t go on, I’ll go on” from Samuel Beckett’s novel, “Unnamable” in my head. This quote speaks to the challenge of having determination in the face of great impossibility. Beckett describes the internal conflict of having the only possible path forward in life as not only being extremely difficult, but also not one that someone would readily choose to follow. We are at that point. We have had to leave many of our friends behind, and yet we must show fierce determination and resolve to carry on and move this organization forward. For the first time in 161 days, we have a target date for when we will once again be opening the doors of our facility branches: September 7. We need to be focused and determined. It is not going to be an easy path forward; each of us will be asked to do many different tasks and carry a lot of responsibility. We will be a lean team for a while, but we need to remember we represent hope for our Y and our communities. Thus far, I have seen a readiness for the task ahead, and it gives me great confidence in our ability to seize the day. It is encouraging when a staff person answers the call with great enthusiasm, even if there is uncertainty in what lies ahead for our Y. We need great courage now, and it is a quality I believe we have in abundance within our team. Throughout the next period of months, there will be moments of doubt. We will need to rely on one another and pick each other up, so we can carry on. We will need to remind each other that our work is critical, so we have a Y tomorrow. Our work is essential for all the people in the community who have been reeling from the trauma of this pandemic. More than ever before, people will need a positive word, some encouragement, and a welcoming smile.
For a while, it will be slow-going. I am not anticipating large numbers of people to walk through the doors of our facility branches; however, we will be providing them other options, such as outdoor exercise programs and activities at Camps Seymour and Helena. We will be providing families solutions for youth, such as childcare and Y on the Fly. We will meet people where they are at by offering virtual solutions – through exercise classes, arts programs, and community cafes – to provide them a variety of services that will help them move forward in their lives. We will need to create a safe environment that is also fun and upbeat. People are going to be intimidated about being indoors and/or being too close to other people, but we will show them that our facilities are spacious and welcoming. In order to monitor and adhere to the capacity requirements, we will be asking our members to utilize the scheduling tool designed by Kim Schulz, which will require them to sign up for a space in the branches (chances are, members will have the flexibility to just walk into the facilities, but we will encourage the use of the scheduling tool). We will also require the use of masks when walking into and throughout our facilities (they will not be required to wear masks while actively exercising). We are hoping we will not have to press our members too hard to get them to comply with these expectations; we just hope our members will understand this is best for everyone. Masks, social distancing, and frequent hand-washing will be new standard operating procedure. It will certainly feel very different inside our branches, but it will also be refreshing to be active again.
I need to prepare all of you for the heavy weight we will all feel over the next few months. The new organizational chart shows us to be very lean, which means we will all have to carry more. Last week, Toko reminded me we need to begin the budgeting process. With a much leaner team, the process will not be the same as it has been in previous years. People in the branches will not have as much time for as many administrative tasks, and it will force us at the Association Office to do more. Executive directors will still play a prominent role in the budget process, but overall, there will be more centralized functions in the financial arena (i.e., accounts payable and centralized purchasing). In addition, the organizational chart will not only indicate a couple of instances where staff are asked to oversee additional branches (Harold Shea for the Haselwood Family and Bremerton Family YMCAs, and Michael Marquez for the University Y Student Center and the virtual branch), but also oversee additional branches in the area of facilities (Marcel Le Grange for the Haselwood and Tom Taylor Family YMCAs, and Robert Hammond for the Gordon Family and Mel Korum Family YMCAs). Chris Spivey, Executive Director – Community Learning and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, will be point for the Community Learning Centers, teaming with Amber Evans-Wynn, Senior Director of Community Learning Centers; Chris will report to Brian Flattum. Susan Buell and her important work with chronic disease and other critical health initiatives will be reporting to Doris Swanson. Finally, the arts and innovation work spearheaded by Lynn Wilmot-Stenehjem will fall under me. In addition, I will be playing a lead role in the important diversity, inclusion, and equity work – I will be forming a committee, which will include key volunteers and community leaders, to assist me in ensuring we have a strong focus on equity in our Y (I view this work as essential to the future of our Y). Tara Bywater will pick up the corporate relationships and will continue to oversee membership, as well as work with Brian to help support the branch executive directors. Our programs will be added gradually as our members become more willing to participate. As Scotty Jackson said, “We are rebuilding our Y from the ground up.”
This week, we will begin informing our members that we will be activating their accounts. While we will be giving them the opportunity to “opt out,” we are going to work hard to encourage them to activate and use our facilities, Camp Seymour, and/or our virtual services. We are also hoping they see their membership as a way to support our outreach to the youth and families of their communities. We are going to play a vital role in the education of youth, either through childcare, Y on the Fly, or in-branch activities. Being part of the Y is being part of the community effort to get through this together. We are a different Y. This is a reset. Toko reminded me that a large number of Ys from around the country drafted their members throughout the closure period, and we did not. We are hoping our members will feel good about reactivating their membership, and bring life to “their Y.”
Within the last few weeks, a number of staff who were on furlough became reengaged to serve on the YMCA Child Care team: Dori Drllevich, Anthony Batschi, Angela White, Sean Leonard, Zack Brown, Diane Smith, Lexus Rymer, and Rebecca Pyfrom. This is exciting for me and our Y for a number of reasons. First of all, we have a tremendous need and opportunity within the childcare arena. This team has been serving valiantly since the very first day of the closure period. As a result of their efforts, our Y was able to meet a tremendous need within the community, and now we are positioned to help the schools be able to educate their students and allow parents to return to work, which will revitalize our communities. Secondly, it shows we can offer opportunities for staff to find employment and areas of growth within our Y. Child Care is an area of great opportunity for our Y, both for the community and for our staff.
From the outset, I have asked a lot from all of you. We have had to endure reductions in our salaries and in our benefits package (specifically, retirement), as well as take on additional responsibilities. It is going to be difficult for a while, but we will get through it. I remain hopeful for our future, because when I look around and see who is on my right and who is on my left, my resolve is strengthened. This team will endure, of that I am sure, because I am sure of the character of each one of you. You are the future of this Y. Be strong and be safe. God bless you all.