On an icy morning outside of the YMCA, I am sitting in a nice warm office. First winters in new communities are always fun to figure out.

I wanted to take a moment to recognize three of our leaders. Leadership is defined in Merriam-Webster’s dictionary as “1. The office or position of a leader 2. Capacity to lead 3. The act or instance of leading.”  I am lucky because I get to witness leadership from our staff team every single day. 

Our first leader is Casey Sanders, Membership and Retention Director. Casey’s office is off of the main lobby at the Fercho branch and she leads our membership efforts along with the desk staff at our two facilities.  In my short time here, Casey has shown herself to be a leader. I’ve watched her set a very high bar for her staff, lead special events, and seen her have some very heartwarming conversations with our members. Casey was recently recognized as a leader in our community by being announced as a member of the 2018 United Way of Cass Clay’s 35 under 35 Women’s Leadership Program. Casey will begin a year-long program of developing her leadership skills in serving others in our community beyond the walls of the YMCA.  This is a very large honor and one that we commend her for receiving.

Our second leader is Ann Mueller, Early Learning Center Site Director at our West Fargo location. Ann recently received accreditation for her child care site from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). This organization works with its members, community partners, and affiliates across the country to ensure that early childhood professions exemplify excellence. Ann led her staff through a grueling process that evaluates the program in areas such as how we develop relationships with children, our teaching approaches, health and nutrition, and the qualification of our staff, just to name a few. She had to complete, along with her staff, a self-evaluation and then a visit from NAEYC representatives. We found out earlier this fall that the site was receiving the NAEYC accreditation for the next five years. The ball doesn’t stop rolling for Ann, she now has to keep the standards high to keep the accreditation. Congratulations to Ann for excellent leadership and hard work. Our childcare staff, at our early learning centers and school age sites, are true leaders.

Finally, our third leader that we want to recognize is Julie Cook, Vice President of Member and Program Services. Last week, Julie announced that she will be stepping down from her role at the YMCA and she and her husband, Mark, will be relocating to Honduras to work with SOL International Foundation. This foundation supports community-based programs designed to promote education and increase the quality of life in developing areas. We can look backward at Julie’s time with our YMCA where she has re-organized our operations, improved our program and membership leadership, and started programs like FOGA (Fargo Organization Giving Through Asana) and Women’s FIT Camp. These will have a lasting impact on us and on our community. Or we could look forward. She will be moving to a community far from family and friends, and not just a community in a different state, outside the country. Taking on learning new ways of communication, cultures, and traditions. More importantly, going to serve those in need where the average household income is just over $4,000 a year. Talk about leadership by example.  We wish her well.

In each case, Casey, Ann and Julie are leading our Y forward and making our community a better place to live.  Nice job to all three.

See you at the Y!

Steve Smith, President