Still "fun to stay at the YMCA" after 100 years in Madison County
Interview by Dirk Webb
Photo courtesy of Dale Pickett
Founded in 1844 by George Williams in London, the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) is a worldwide organization that benefits over 57 million people through 125 national associations. All YMCA’s have a common mission: “To put Christian Principles into Practice through Programs that Benefit Spirt, Mind and Body for all.”
The cornerstone for “The Y” of Madison County was placed at the venerable 12th Street location in 1916 with the 11th Street Pool facility added in the 1970’s.
Executive Director, Casey Rowlett, a Pendleton native, has been with YMCA since 2012 and in that position since 2014. She explains, “It’s a new time for the ‘Y.’ We’ve worked hard to look at what the community needs are. Membership dollars pay for brick and mortar and staffing but we feel we need to provide more. We need to be a safe place for kids who have no other place to go.”
Taking the YMCA to where the needs are, Rowlett and staff have made major changes to the Kid’s Zone, a before and after school program at the school campuses. Says Rowlett, “We are in all the public and private schools in the county giving 158 students a place to go.”
The Kid’s Zone program in cooperation with Harrison College provides help with homework and tutoring in English and Math. The YMCA also provides healthy snacks and physical activities. “We want this service to be a catalyst for kids. Our goal is to get the kids to be involved in more programs at our building where we have a new youth room with computers, a ping pong table, a Foosball table, and a large reading area and a new staff members dedicated to youth development.”
Would you consider Madison County to be in the midst of sunrise? What does the business sunrise across the horizon look like to you?
“I do feel a definite upswing. Being in charge of a non-profit, we see more people engaging in our programs which says ‘Anderson is worth the time and money.’ Previously they thought, ‘what’s the point, they (The Y) might not be there tomorrow, Anderson is not getting better.’ Our improvements have caused people to sit up and take notice.”
What does "A New Day" mean to you?
"I’ve always looked at it as you’re going to make mistakes, just don’t make them a second time. Learn from your mistakes and make tomorrow better. I sleep well at night knowing we might have fallen that day, but you can bet if we fall we’re falling forward.”
How has your optimism helped you guide your company’s vision?
“For me, my role at the Y and what I really enjoy most is seeing the best in people from our staff to our members. We have people every day who use their time and talents to make the YMCA a better place. We love it when members say, ‘have you ever thought about doing this or creating that program?’ Some of the best programs we have are from members creating them. We just ask that they help. Our Thanksgiving Day 5k in Pendleton is our biggest fundraising event of the year with over 200 runners and walkers and it was created out of a suggestion from a member. Another member was instrumental in creating a YMCA program for kids in Madison County who are home-schooled. What started with just a few participants has grown to include over 40 kids. These children meet every Friday from September through May at one of the YMCA's in our association and participate in several activities, including martial arts, gymnastics, art, science, swimming, Physical Education, and team building activities. We should always be optimistic where people are concerned. It’s up to me and my staff to pull that out of people.”
Is your optimism ever threatened?
“Of course! We can have high highs and low lows at the Y, sometimes in the same day. Despite our idealistic view of the future, we know the Y has been here 100 years for a reason. It does take the community to embrace us and participate here. When something is well attended, you feel good, then that same day the pool may have an issue and you have to shut it down. It can be a roller coaster. Despite the obstacles, we choose to focus on the successes of the day. The greatest joy is when a whole family can come into the Y and each person has their needs met.”
If Optimism leads to achievement, what is it you hope the Y will achieve in 2016?
”We hope to create more partnerships. We’re very proud of our relationship with Harrison College. Our kids are getting tutored for free. The tutors are gaining experience and kids are gaining skills. We hope to continue working with St. Vincent’s and Community Hospital to benefit their patients. Often a Doctor may send a patient to the Y to participate in one of our programs. We want to reach out for more partners.”
If you were to have five minutes with someone who was considering relocating to Madison County what would you tell them?
“I see our county from many different views because the YMCA of Madison County includes Pendleton, Elwood and Anderson. Each community has many wonderful employers who invest in their employees by purchasing YMCA memberships for them. Red Gold, Nestle, and the Town of Pendleton are just some examples. Another unique trait of the people of Madison County is our desire to connect with one another. We like to know each other by name and we're here for each other and our communities in both good times and bad. In a bigger community, I feel that this can be lost."
To view past award winners, or to read more about the awards, visit MCC's Wall of Fame.