The last time Chapel Hill-Carrboro YMCA filled the executive directors chair, most televisions had square screens, Brittany Spears was still the Princess of Pop, and no one had heard of American Idol.
Over the past 11 years, Jerry Whortan certainly put his stamp on the YMCA and the community. With Whortans resignation in late May, however, the next man in the directors chair is reticent to announce any formal plans to impact the local branch at all no plans to repair, enhance, or rebuild the YMCA.
In fact, as interim director, career YMCA administrator Ralph Yohe humbly hopes only to pass the torch from Whortan to a new permanent CEO without letting the flame go out on a vibrant, thriving concern.
There are many great things about this Y, Yohe said. There are great programs, theres a staff thats passionate about their work, theres a smart, committed board of directors, and now its all about picking a new CEO to lead this YMCA in the future.
Appointed June 4, Yohe affirmed that Whortan left the YMCA in wonderful shape.
Ive done this before in a crisis situation, but this is not a crisis situation here, he said.
There are no major financial issues at all. Theres no debt here.
Yohe was chosen from a small pool of available administrators well-versed in YMCA operations who make themselves available to step in and manage on a temporary basis.
Were mostly retired and mostly its CEOs, Yohe said. Y-USA makes recommendations based on how a retired CEO might fit.
Its still up to the folks on the local board to decide who they want to bring in.
Chapel Hill YMCA Board of Directors chair Jennifer Trapani said the Y-USA has been tremendously helpful in finding an interim CEO.
With Ralphs help, Im confident the Y can move forward, focusing on its five-year strategic plan while we begin the search of our new CEO, Trapani said in a prepared statement. He knows what it means to be part of the Y and to focus on youth development, healthy living and social responsibility.
Yohe has served in a leadership role within the larger Y community for almost 40 years. Most recently, he was interim CEO for the Melrose YMCA in Melrose, Mass. Prior to that, Yohe was President and CEO of the South Shore YMCA in Quincy, Mass., for 23 years.
We built it (South Shore) over time, and we had 23,000 members at one facility there, Yohe said.
Yohe inherits a YMCA in Chapel Hill, albeit for a short span, that has grown and continually added progressive resources to its menu of services over the past decade.
Whortan, who resigned his position to pursue other career options locally, is commonly credited with doubling the number of community members served, expanding the service area, and adding new program and facilities, including those at Meadowmont and in Chatham County.
He coordinated the establishment of Boomerang a cooperative venture with local schools that provided in-house study for those suspended from local middle and high schools and a partnership with Darkness to Light, a nonprofit organization that works to prevent child sexual abuse.
This Y branch is a leader in Darkness to Light, Yohe stressed. Theyve trained more people than any other program except the YMCA in Delaware, and that organization is working with the whole state."
Yohe said that the work of Chapel Hill branch director Kim Grooms is fantastic, and its leading the country.
Weve still got a long way to go, though, because we want to train 5 percent of the adult population in the community," Yohe said. "That doesnt just make the local YMCA safer; it makes the entire community safer.
Yohe said one of the challenges hell face will be to maintain morale and diminish uncertainty.
Any time theres a change, people get uneasy. Thats natural, he said. We want people to understand that it could very well be positive. The boards challenge is to get the right leader to move on and to convince the staff of that.
Yohe conceded that a new, permanent executive director will face both challenges and the potential for incredible growth.
Theres a strategic plan here thats not completely in place, but theres a great start, and to bring that plan to fruition you need resources, he said. The human resources are in place, but there are also dollars that have to be raised.
Yohe said the main Chapel Hill-Carrboro facility at 980 Martin Luther King Blvd. is no longer big enough to fully serve the community.
Were limited in the programs that we can run and the number of members we can have because of this current facility, he said. It needs an upgrade, if not an addition or facelift.
Yohe said that that same economy that challenges the Y also challenges families, however, making the YMCAs role all the more vital.
You could make the case that (because of the economy) the need is actually greater, because more and more families and kids need the YMCA, he said. We need more contributors than ever. To get large capital dollars is hard. It can be done, but it doesnt happen overnight. I believe this community will respond.
With his family firmly entrenched in the local community, Whortan has said that he would prefer to seek a move that uses his talents locally, tapping into his knowledge and experience in the Chapel Hill/Carrboro community.
As for Yohe, however, the Chapel Hill-Carrboro YMCA is one more way to serve the Y-USAs comprehensive mission, even if its by doing very little at all.
Oh, we may put a couple things in place, but Ive certainly not got any agenda, he said. You cant build a building in a short time, but you can build programs or put a few processes in place. But there will be a new CEO coming in here who will make their own changes.
My role is simple: Its an exciting time, and my job is to do the things that will help the (permanent) CEO hit the ground running.For more information, see www.chcymca.org.
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