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A Mississippi Business Journal Q&A

Metro Y chief thinks role ‘more of a ministry than a job’

Next April, after the highly anticipated new fitness complexes in Clinton and Flowood are up and running, the management team at the YMCA of Metropolitan Jackson will begin planning its 100-year anniversary celebration.

Originally established as a Bible study group in 1860, the Jackson YMCA was organized April 9, 1905, and officially chartered in 1906. When the celebration is underway, the YMCA of Metropolitan Jackson will have eight branches to serve metro area residents: Clinton Family YMCA, Flowood Family YMCA, I.S. Sanders YMCA and Sanders satellite Y, I-55 Y (at Riverplace), Northside YMCA, Reservoir Y and the Southwest Y.

The Mississippi Business Journal caught up with David Reeves, the organization’s new CEO, who was on the road touring the metro facilities. He had stopped in the parking lot of the Sanders YMCA to chat with us by cell phone.

“When you see the hundreds of little kids that we’re taking care of every day, and you know that parents entrust their children’s lives to our hands, there’s no way it can’t touch your heart,” said Reeves. “It’s not just a babysitting job. These kids are learning.”

Reeves, 42, a native of Lubbock, Texas, was studying business administration at Texas Tech when a fraternity brother got him a job as a ski instructor at a YMCA camp in Dallas one summer.

“After I did that, I knew it’s what I wanted to do for the rest of my life,” he said. “So I changed my major to recreational management and have been working with the YMCA for 17 years.”

Reeves moved to Nashville as executive director of a local branch. Soon, he moved to a larger branch, then was named district executive, and had served as a group vice president in the last couple of years before moving to Jackson with his wife, Allison, and their three children, Tramel, Addison and Morgan.

The MBJ asked Reeves about changes and challenges the YMCA faces, corporate involvement, and new recreational opportunities.

Mississippi Business Journal: Tell us about the new Flowood facility. What makes it so unique?

David Reeves: The 53-acre Flowood Family YMCA on track to open in January will feature a 70,000-square-foot facility with a wellness center, two indoor pools, two indoor gyms, a kids’ gym, a fully furnished nursery and a physical rehabilitation clinic. To make it happen, the City of Flowood collaborated with the YMCA to provide the community and surrounding area with a state-of-the-art recreational and wellness complex. It will be one of the largest in the Southeast.

The Flowood partnership has been unique for Jackson, but it’s not necessarily unique for other communities in other areas of the country. Cities are seeing the value of having a Y. Many times, a private development company will include a Y in a large development because it adds such value to area residents. Chambers like to get involved, too, because it’s an excellent quality of life selling tool. A Y is considered a good, safe program.

I’ve been involved with both developers and chambers and I’d like to explore more possibilities in Jackson. So many new homes are being built in many new areas. As I look around, there aren’t that many recreational opportunities and I think the Y would be a great fit, and a great sell for private industry.

MBJ: What changes would you like to see made in the YMCA of Metropolitan Jackson organization?

DR: We need to concentrate on volunteer development. We’ve continued to go to the same pool of volunteers year after year. We have to get more diversified and start reaching out to new people. We have to figure out where those people are and hope we touch enough lives so that they want to get involved.

We haven’t done an annual campaign since 1999. With the services we provide, we need an annual campaign to raise dollars to help those who can’t afford any or part of the way. With the annual campaign, you’re telling the story every day about the services you provide. Since we haven’t done one in so many years, I’m afraid we haven’t been telling that story.
As a corporate office, our mission is to support our branches. We’re working for them, rather than them working for us. We’re going to continue to be as lean and efficient as possible, yet continue to provide the services needed to have an outstanding Y.

We’re hoping that the Northside and Southwest facilities will discontinue branch-only memberships so that when you join any YMCA of Metro Jackson, you have access to all eight branches.

We’re working with several businesses that support our programs with volunteers and/or money. We’re trying to build partnerships with other non-profit agencies, such as the Big Brothers Big Sisters program.

We have our corporate membership, but we’re stopping any sort of reduced-fee membership at the beginning of the year. However, we will continue to provide financial assistance. We hope what we offer is of value. We have affordable pricing. Some corporations pay for their employees’ membership.

Others may pay a part of it, or may help us come into their business and talk about the Y so that we have a large audience at one time. When we do that, we talk about our financial assistance program.

MBJ: Why should businesses support the Y?

DR: Because supporting the existing community is the right thing to do. We’re providing services and programs that, if we weren’t contributing dollars to help, a lot of participants would not be able to afford. Therefore, the children would be either home alone or running around in the streets or who knows where doing who knows what. For the safety of the community and surrounding areas, it’s a good thing to support.

One difference between us and other fitness and childcare organizations is that we’re open to all. When you come to the YMCA, you’re not coming just to work out, you’re coming because it’s a place to bond and build relationships. It’s a small community within the community.

MBJ: How are you planning for the next three to five years?

DR: Obviously, the big talk in town is that we have the two big, new Ys being built. We want those to be first-class facilities serving their communities. Besides that, we want to make sure all of our Ys are clean and friendly and serve the communities in the ways the communities need to be served. We’re talking to the volunteers’ branch board and to program participants about their vision of the Y in the next three to five years. We want to try to reflect what the community wants rather than prescribe what the community needs.

MBJ: How has the transition been from Nashville to Jackson?

DR: I’ve enjoyed it a lot. It’s given me the ability to continue to do what I believe in, and to serve the mission. I consider it more of a ministry than a job. I love doing it every day.

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at lwjeter@yahoo.com.

About Lynne W. Jeter

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