West Cook YMCA

Phillip's First Two Weeks

Published 06.02.14


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In your youth, did you ever pick up a discarded giant cardboard box used to pack a large appliance like a refrigerator, stove or washing machine-punch in a window, a doorway, inscribe the word, "clubhouse," and then invite friends to join you?

During my initial weeks as the West Cook YMCA's newly appointed President and CEO, I've discovered my own "clubhouse" right here on South Marion Street in Oak Park that ironically is just a few blocks from where I grew up in Forest Park and was a Y camper. 

I'm thoroughly enjoying meeting new found friends from ten west suburban communities to join with me as I listen and learn about this remarkable not-for-profit community asset.  

In my rounds, I've been welcomed by Y board members, our energetic and enthusiastic staff, the regular users of the Y, our SRO residents, community and civic leaders throughout all ten west suburban communities and our neighbors.

All have been very generous with their time and ideas as I go about the task of becoming acquainted with challenges and character of this YMCA that offers some 100 classes and programs weekly and touches the lives of more than 10,000 very diverse youth, families, singles and seniors in the course of a year.

During these initial weeks of my appointment, I'm on a journey-a mission.

Whether it's walking the halls of the Marion Street building or traveling to the nine other west suburbs that we serve, I'm listening and learning to the thoughts and ideas about how best we can strengthen and improve this 110-year-old Y to serve current and future generations of all who wish to preserve and protect their spirit, mind and body.  

I'm quickly learning that the West Cook YMCA is far more than just a building.  

clientuploads/IMG_9474_small.jpgThis was brought home to me and my wife, Beatriz, on a beautiful warm and sunny Memorial Day when we joined with the Y team who were "patrolling" and picking up the immediate area and scrubbing down the Fred Hampton Aquatic Center and Pool as it opened for the 2014 Summer Season.

It was a joy to see the many happy kids and families who took advantage of the Village of Maywood's fine aquatic facility that the West Cook YMCA will manage and operate this summer for the third year.

Another high point was the warm welcome I received when I addressed fellow Rotarians at the Maywood chapter of Rotary International. Many were amazed at some of the anecdotes that I was able to share about Maywood's several connections with the West Cook Y.

The Community of Congregations, the interfaith group that organizes pulpit exchanges and social functions where people of all faiths and backgrounds can engage with one another, has been most welcoming as well.

During these initial weeks here at the Y, I'm learning the lore, listening to the stories, soaking up the fascinating history and accepting the hospitality of all who are willing to share their thoughts with me.

I feel very welcome, whether greeting the early morning 5 a.m. crowd who can't wait to climb on a spin bike to start their day; listening to the sounds of pulleys and weights being moved and manipulated, just outside my office, as a core group of active Y members stretch their bodies so they can run and walk another day; enjoying the comings and goings in our Lobby of our Early Childhood members or taking a quiet turn around the building in the midnight hour when all is calm as our SRO guests enjoy a rest so they might have a good tomorrow.   

My job now is to absorb and assimilate all that I'm learning while being mindful of the Y's principles and core values of caring, respect for others and responsibility for one's actions.

My objectives in the coming weeks will be to focus on four key areas that I believe will sustain us well into the future.

Building Membership Value

First, will be to enhance and improve member value in the West Cook YMCA. Our members, the core group of people who regularly attend classes, work out, participate in programs, volunteer on our community outreach initiatives, need to know and understand that they are receiving good value.

We will do all we can to inventory and then highlight the many values one receives when you join the Y and become an active participant. 

Continuing Staff Development

Second, we will continue to develop the West Cook YMCA's very hard working and dedicated staff. Whether through in-service training, off-site opportunities offered by the YMCA of the USA and other resources, I'm committed to building the best possible staff.

Strengthen and Improve Income Streams

Third, there is a critical need to improve the finances of the West Cook YMCA. I intend to do this, not by cutting programs or staff, but by increasing income though any number of means-more targeted programming designed to meet the needs and interests of segments of our membership -men and women of all ages and interests, young children, youth, teens, families, singles and seniors.

While the West Cook Y's finances are in good order, there's always room to improve the income stream through contributions, corporations, community organizations, foundations, bequests and major gifts.

Identify New Partners

Four, just as the West Cook Y has been successful in extending its reach to meet the needs of residents of many of the ten communities we serve, we need to identify new partners, new collaborators who will join with us in serving a broad swath of needs throughout the west suburbs of Chicago. 

I wish to develop and broaden the concept that this is truly a "YMCA without walls."

Seek Additional Board Members

Finally, we welcome anyone who believes that they have the time, ideas and inclination to serve on the West Cook YMCA's Board of Directors. Just as I as someone who has been associated with youth and cultural groups brings a fresh perspective to this Y, I would hope that others who have diverse experiences and backgrounds will step forward and offer to participate in the governance of the West Cook YMCA and help us build bridges and make new connections.

I look forward to your continuing support as we join together to advance healthy living, youth development and social responsibility.

Phillip Jiménez

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