“Because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” – Romans 5:3-5
James Womack, founder of the Lean Enterprise Institute (Six Sigma), wrote: “Commitment unlocks the doors of imagination, allows vision, and gives us the right stuff to turn our dream into reality.” I have used the word commitment a lot to describe the work of our Y over these past 10 months; there is depth in that word. To be committed requires devotion and dedication, something you have displayed repeatedly throughout this period. On New Year’s Day, I watched our health and well-being team deliver the Holiday Hustle to our members (I know, I kept thinking I should be participating rather than just watching). It was an amazing event – Lauren, Stefani, Beau, Britney, Annie, Becca, and Melissa did an outstanding job leading a great workout. It is not easy engaging people virtually, but their passion came through the screen and it was powerfully effective because of their commitment to excellence and making a difference in people’s lives.
Last week, Don Brevik (Youth and Government Director, YMCA Center for Community Impact) shared screenshots of the Pacific Regional Conference he facilitated for 68 teens. From the comments captured describing their experience, the teens were grateful to have a platform to engage in conversation and connect with their peers. As Jose Gorospe (Senior Executive Director, Morgan Family YMCA) pointed out, Don has been leading this conference for over 30 years; this was the very first virtual conference and it was a huge success. Don has strong relationships with hundreds of teens; he has built a foundation of trust with them and they know he is devoted to helping them grow and develop, and they know he is deeply committed to their well-being. It is this commitment that drove the success of the conference, which is another example of how your devotion is driving the work of the Y through an entirely new medium.
Chris Spivey (Executive Director, Community Learning and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) has been working with teens in the juvenile justice program for years. Chris has established a partnership with Pierce County Juvenile Court to provide teens an alternative to juvenile detention. With COVID-19 requiring a different way of work, we questioned if the virtual platform could be effective for teens in this program because physical attendance is critical and access to computers and internet is difficult. Recently, Chris shared that the six-week virtual program was a success and attendance held strong throughout. Chris also shared the impact the program had on one young participant in particular, which made it extra special. In the first session, Chris observed this young teen using gang signs throughout the session. The staff team immediately put in additional time with the teen, and over the six-week period, they have seen a remarkable turnaround by the teen. In fact, Chris shared how they connected the teen with the high school football coach, and the teen has already changed direction in his life. The teen trusted Chris and knew he was devoted to helping him. This remarkable transformation does not happen without the complete commitment Chris has for teens, and it came through using a completely different medium.
These are only a few of the many examples of the commitment you continue to demonstrate on a daily basis. It is truly remarkable what you have been able to accomplish under very difficult conditions. As of January 1, our membership is at 14,921 units, approximately 33% of our pre-COVID numbers (the national average is 20-25%). I celebrate this accomplishment; it has come with every single person making a significant contribution. On December 29, Stephanie Roberts (Senior Executive Director, Gordon Family YMCA) and the aquatics team jumped into action, with support from the marketing department and the engagement center, to launch registration for the swim lesson program. As of last week, there were 835 registrants in the program. We are still hoping the program will launch January 11, but we are also keeping an eye on what the new state guidelines will be. As has been the case from the outset, our team is ready to adjust to whatever comes our way. It is an incredible demonstration of resilience.
It truly is remarkable to see every part of our team contribute to make us successful. Throughout these past 10 months, we have celebrated the heroic effort of our childcare team. They have been tenacious in meeting the challenges placed in front of them, not knowing where they will be at any particular moment. On January 19, we will open our new early learning center in University Place. Loren Johnson (Property Management and Facility Development Director) and Ed Bressette (Association Facilities Director) have done a great job getting the center ready for operation. Loren has said it is like opening a new Y. Ashley Perkins (Senior Program Director, YMCA Child Care) and her team have been relentless in contacting every one of the 106 interested families to get them enrolled; as of last week, we had 40 families enrolled. Toko Thompson (Vice President and Chief Financial Officer) said we are “blowing by our projected numbers,” which creates a positive cash flow into our operation. This is very exciting and establishes a much-needed addition to the operation for our association. Tara Harkness (Executive Director, YMCA Child Care) and Ashley are looking for an additional site in Puyallup to capitalize on the footprint we have had for years in our two mobile units. We feel we can provide a more significant service in Puyallup with an expanded and higher-quality site. Great work by Tara and Ashley for continuing to explore expanded markets to serve families and strengthen our Y.
This week, we await the governor’s forthcoming announcement on the new guidelines that will permit us to operate safely. We are prepared to adapt as needed, as we have throughout. Our approach has always been that we can only control what we can. Remarkably, throughout this entire period, we have had very few reported cases of COVID-19 impacting our staff and members – this is a direct tribute to the vigilance you have had with respect to our safety protocols. Lately, though, we have seen a slight increase in the number of exposures our team has reported – this is not necessarily a surprise, with the numbers increasing all around us. Unfortunately, this presents another formidable challenge for us. We are a small team, and even if just a few of our team are required to quarantine, things can get complicated quickly. Safety is, and always has been, our most coveted objective. We have opened our doors to provide vital health services to our members and to provide jobs to our staff. Every day, we have been operating at risk, but your dedication and commitment to the safety protocols has continued to make this possible. It is necessary for us to remain vigilant in our discipline, both while at work as well as outside of work. I cannot tell you how to run your lives outside of work, I can only remind you what is at stake. We are in this together. What you do not only affects all of us, but affects our members as well. We cannot control our members’ behavior outside our premises, but we can emphasize our commitment to the protocols.
Throughout these past 10 months, I have consistently asked a lot from you. We are facing an unprecedented challenge – one which none of us have ever encountered – and our personal and collective well-being is inextricably connected. Never before has our fate as professionals as well as our personal well-being been so intertwined. We will get through this. I know this because of the tremendous commitment you have for your work and to the people around you. I have never felt such a deep connection to a group of individuals as I have felt to you. I am truly in awe of your devotion to serving others. God bless you all.