I’m just back from our state’s annual CEO Retreat & Leadership Conference. It is a meeting I have missed only twice in the last 21 years, and those times were due to unavoidable circumstances.

One of our many topics of discussion this year was how to align most effectively the work of YPN and the state Alliance. We had rich conversation around this, but we have more work to do. During those discussions, it occurred to me why this retreat has always been so important to me. It is because of all the people with me in the room; they are colleagues, peers and friends. These are relationships built of time; times around a conference table, around a meal table, around a cocktail table, around a campfire, in a “cracker barrel” circle or relaxing on a porch at a place where my Y story began.

Many of these friends that I have come to know so well I met through attending YPN, formally known as AYP and APD. It was peer relationships that expanded my perspective of self-worth as a Y leader. It gave me regional leadership opportunities in which to grow, as well as common ground with others that fostered deeper learning.

I’m concerned there may be a new generation of Y leaders that has not taken advantage of the same opportunities provided to me. I hope that our YPN and our state Alliance of YMCAs can restore and grow these rich opportunities for our young staff to grow and thrive.  A first step is to get involved and start a discussion at your Y about the importance of the professional development opportunities that YPN offers—especially the ones involving peer communities. Much like the peer community I was surrounded by last month, with deep, caring and trusting relationships.  Those relationships exist by sharing our greatest asset: time.  Time=Love.

As always, I am so thankful for the opportunity to be included in an incredible group of peers.  It is a privilege to serve with you in delivering our mission and cause across our state.