The organization that I wanted to go deeper through was one that I’ve had plenty of experience with as I grew up – the YMCA. For those that don’t know, the YMCA, founded in 1844, provides many activities, amenities, and areas for local communities throughout the United States to gather and do things together. I attended summer camps in my hometown every year and was able to volunteer as a Counselor-in-Training once I turned 13. A few years later, I applied to become a camp counselor with the YMCA at Camp Ockanickon, just two minutes from my house. After getting the job, I was able to relive some of my younger childhood memories, now from the other side – for three years, I was able to work for and also volunteer with the YMCA along with spending time with the hundreds of children that they helped support in my area.
Although I’ve been heavily involved with the YMCA, I didn’t know too much about who was in the leadership – only the values that they instilled throughout the organization. Kevin Washington became President and CEO in early 2015. The Philadelphia native had been involved with the YMCA for 36 years, most recently in Boston before becoming CEO. The organization’s 14th President was brought in to the position because he could “understand the social issues challenging our nation and how the Y can help address them” in addition to being “an exceptional cause-driven leader who is committed to Y-USA’s strategic direction and will add to the Y’s momentum as a national charity,” according to Christine Marcks, Chairman of the YMCA of the USA Board of Directors.
The sixth largest charity in the United States with $6.6 billion in revenue and $5.37 billion going out through charitable services, the YMCA is continuously growing to reach all corners of the country. So then, what are some of these values that Washington and the YMCA bring to the table? The main example that comes to my mind is the organization’s dedication to its customers – both ones who pay for the services of the YMCA and those who receive benefits from volunteering activities. Washington’s experience growing up, and his first job with the YMCA, is what led him to continue his career path within the organization. He wanted to create a safe refuge for children to engage with others and prosper, and so he instilled this ideal throughout all of the members working within the YMCA. Some organizations put their customers as a means to raising money, but for Washington and the YMCA, the money they receive is what allowed them to invest back in their customers and communities. Going off of that, the idea of the community is how Washington has helped the YMCA grow. Growing up in the South Philadelphia area, Washington knew how important it could be to engage within an entire community, and so he wanted to do the same thing wherever the YMCA reached. “We have to be the bridge for the crossover from adolescence to adulthood,” says Washington, and the community that the YMCA builds is how we can achieve that. Washington wants the YMCA to be more than just gym-swim activities (gym-swim activities meaning that they provide the location and supplies and just let the customer do their own thing with what is provided); instead, Washington, wants to build lifestyles around the YMCA. The employees enjoy time with other employees, and the parents, and the children, and it becomes an experience moreso than just a place to do things. This idea of an experience, revolving around the YMCA and its communities, is what Kevin Washington has been able to bring to the table, and it certainly has been effective.
The values and way of the life that the YMCA has supplied for all of its stakeholders, from the employees to the customers, has allowed it to be such a successful organization. It has grown immensely in its industry since it was founded, and the investment it provides for employees and customers goes a long way in allowing the YMCA to do what it has done. Washington must be happy with the way the company has been going, with its continued passion and dedication to the values he has brought to the table.
There are a plethora of activities for children supplied by the YMCA shown in the above video, and although the organization does provide events and supplies for adults, its passion for helping kids grow in a healthy environment is where the values it instills come from. Seeing the smiles on the faces of these children is why Kevin Washington wants to be in the position he is in, and why the YMCA continues to be such a successful organization in its communities.
Featured Image via: http://www.sewickleyymca.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/web_IMG_4642.jpg