When the Alliance sent its last newsletter on March 2, the Coronavirus pandemic had not yet begun. We didn’t know what was to come. We didn’t know that we would face months of YMCA closures, and what that would mean for our staff, our members and the communities we collectively serve.
While we mourn those who lost their lives and support those suffering through it, either physically or economically, how do we learn from this experience? As I reflect on how challenging these past few months have been for me, both personally and professionally, I’m looking to the positives that come from this time: relationships, working together with “one voice,” and partnerships. These are the key lessons and opportunities I am thinking about to navigate the road ahead.
In terms of relationships, a great lesson that could come from this time is how deep we can go within our associations to maintain peer networks. In North Carolina, we have been so fortunate to have great relationships among our peer groups before COVID-19, and my hope is that those relationships have been strengthened and will remain, allowing us to propel ourselves forward. I think we have bonded as a result of this. The frequency of virtual calls and communication may be reduced going forward as our Ys reopen, but the sharing of perspectives and experiences has been invaluable to each association and to the Alliance as a whole.
Our commitment to the idea of “one voice” as an Alliance enabled us to approach the crisis together. We have used the information we gathered to guide our decision-making for everyone. We didn’t have to figure it out for ourselves at each of the 25 Ys; instead we were able to come together and learn from one another. That’s one voice. Everyone trying to approach the challenges in a similar fashion, particularly around the health and safety guidelines and restrictions, has assisted all of us. We’re clearly better together. For me, it’s about the one voice and one approach–that has been incredibly helpful vs. trying to figure this all out myself as a single association CEO.
I also think that partnerships are a significant opportunity for us. The Y has a history of collaborative relationships, and we have proven to some and affirmed to others that working together--whether that’s one Y with another Y, or the Y with another community organization—is the way to make the greatest impact. The challenges are too great to address by ourselves. In the future, we know we can lean on those we have new and enhanced relationships with. To me, that’s true impact, and from my perspective, the collaboration and partnerships are the way we must go forward. And it’s clearer now that sometimes our place is just to jump in and get on board; we don’t have to always lead at the Y.
As we move into recovery and revitalization, we’ll continue to need support of the Ys across our state. Most Ys will need to restructure staff, repurpose facilities and establish new partnerships to remain relevant in their communities. We can support each other through that journey like we’ve never done before. I look forward to our strengthened relationships supporting us all in navigating this journey ahead together.
Chair, NC Alliance of YMCAs Board of Directors
President & CEO, YMCA of Northwest North Carolina