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Looking back on the first year as CEO of the YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka

YMCA Geneva ParkLike the region itself, I have found the YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka to be a warm welcoming place offering memorable experiences while touching thousands of lives every day. This year has seen the YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka reach out in new ways with a real passion giving me an opportunity to listen to the voices of our communities and understand what role they want the irY to play in the years to come.

Listening to our communities

Approximately 1300 community members shared their thoughts through the Strategic Plan Survey, and our board of directors and leadership teams have spent a great deal of careful thought crafting a plan that will see us focus on areas of impact for the future The development of a new strategic plan has been our focus over the last 12 months as it will chart our course for the next five years.

Focusing on youth and young adults locally and internationally

Throughout the year, the themes of family and youth have remained strong. As an aspect of strategic focus, the YMCAYMCA CEO, Rob Armstrong talking to youth of Simcoe Muskoka facilitated discussions for youth and community organizations dedicated to family  to connect through events such as our Where’s the Family? A community conversation for change event and our “Healthy Food, Healthy Youth” roundtable in partnership with the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

In April, I was joined by board members Richard Kelley and Melanie Smith in Sierra Leone as part of our ongoing commitment to improve the lives of  those living in the shadow of a devastating civil war. The YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka has partnered with the YMCA of Sierra Leone and was proud to help them celebrate their 100th birthday this year. We were pleased to join Meghan Mergaert there during her international internship to hear about the impact employment programs are having on the lives of youth and families in Sierra Leone.

Growing within communities

Gravenhurst YMCAThis year saw a number of renovations to our health, fitness and recreation centres, including those in Collingwood and Barrie, and the opening of a brand new YMCA in Gravenhurst. Through each project, I was encouraged by words from members and staff excited to see great new things happening at their Y. As a place for communities to gather and grow stronger together, continuing to build capacity and provide the best facilities possible will remain an important part of the plan in the coming years.

Through initiatives driven by our strategic plan such as the “My Y” campaign which invites community engagement through video storytelling our centres  will serve as a conduit to share the incredible personal stories of those whose lives have been touched by the Y.

Dedicated  to Developing Future Leaders

As a part of Simcoe County and Muskoka, the YMCA is dedicated to the development of leaders to take our communities forward. In partnership with the United Way and Georgian College, we facilitated a discussion with 92 not for profit organizations to explore the potential of creating a Leadership Institute at Geneva Park.  The Leadership Think Tank experience moves us closer toward bringing together proven community leaders in a collaborative environment dedicated to creating stronger leadership.

Familiar faces in more places

As anyone who has ever been the “new kid in town” can attest, there is a great sense of satisfaction in that moment when you are met with a smile of recognition in your “new” town. Recently, I’ve been pleased to meet more and more familiar faces in places across the region, and look forward to meeting
many more in the years to come.

YMCA staff and volunteersYMCA International Internship, Sierra Leone, Africa

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