A Program of The Legacy Foundation

Class Project: Building a Sustainable Y for the Future

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The Covid-19 Pandemic has forced businesses across the world to rethink how they operate. The Ottumwa Family YMCA is no different. The pandemic forced shutdowns of the YMCA facility, programming, and events leading to a difficult financial situation for the community cornerstone.

O.L.A. class members Himar Hernandez (Iowa State University Extension), Lisa Fritz (Bellevue University), Michelle Russell-Graham (Indian Hills Community College), and Mike Spieler (Legacy Foundation) partnered with the Ottumwa Family YMCA. The team developed an online community survey to reassess what Ottumwa needs from its local YMCA, and how to create a sustainable operations model in a post-pandemic world. 

Garrett Ross, Ottumwa Family YMCA CEO, said, “We need to know what our community needs. A Y is meant to reflect its community, and we are asking you to help us define that for Wapello County. We are asking our friends and neighbors what you and your family need from the Ottumwa Family YMCA. Your feedback is important and meaningful to our community’s future and the direction of your YMCA.”

The team completed a SWOT analysis and used the 173 survey responses to work with the Ottumwa Family YMCA Board of Directors to develop a 12-month sustainability plan. The 14-page report to the board identified many areas for improvement and ideas for future success at the Ottumwa Family YMCA. One of the identified significant challenges faced by the YMCA was employee retention. As a result, the team developed the Employee Retention Fund to alleviate staffing challenges, donating $400 as seed funding. After the donation, Ross said, “We are not only on track to open the YMCA Employee Support Fund by August, but earlier, by the end of this month! We’re so thankful for your support in making this happen!”

Team projects offer the opportunity for local organizations to benefit from the assistance of a diverse group of community leaders. But the benefits go far beyond just the organizations. In her final reflection, project member Michelle Russell-Graham said, “I am incredibly thankful for the opportunity to be a member of the OLA Class of 2021! During the class sessions, I learned about my primary strengths, conflict resolution, team building, public speaking (and so much more.) The class project gave me a chance to work with a team of my classmates to practice all of these skills while making a difference to an organization in our community. This experience has given me the confidence to jump in and take the lead on a couple of initiatives within my organization that I felt passionate about.”

Does your organization have a project or initiative that serves Wapello County that would benefit from working with a diverse team of dedicated community leaders? Interested organizations with team project ideas are invited to submit a project proposal by Tuesday, September 9, 2021. 

Email htometich@leadottumwa.org for application forms.