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YMCA president/CEO steps down after 23 years
Posted By Staff On February 16, 2011 @ 6:09 am In Online Exclusives | No Comments
From press release
YMCA of Rock River Valley President and CEO Wray Howard, who expanded the organization’s community impact in his 23 years as its president, announced Feb. 10 he plans to retire June 30, 2011.
Howard’s 43-year career with the YMCA began in his home town of Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada. He spent three years with the YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago at the Logan Square Branch before coming to Rockford as a program director in 1974. In his announcement, Howard expressed how fortunate he was to have worked with such a strong, worldwide organization that is dedicated to improving lives by strengthening the foundations of community through programs that address youth development, healthy living and social responsibility.
He acknowledges he has had the good fortune to work with many outstanding YMCA board members, strong community leaders, and hundreds of dedicated volunteers in the Rockford community. Additionally, Howard said: “The successes that Rockford’s YMCA has enjoyed over the years would not have been possible without a staff team that demonstrates passion, commitment, and a caring attitude in delivering the mission of the YMCA. Rockford’s YMCA was nationally recognized long before I came here because of the strong leadership and great staff. I am proud that I have been able to contribute to its service in our community over the past 23 years.”
When Howard was named president/chief executive officer in 1988, he continued to grow the organization through progressive community outreach efforts along with program and facility expansions.
Roberta Holzwarth, chairman of the YMCA Board of Directors, praised Howard saying: “It has been a true pleasure to work with Wray. He has a unique combination of talents that has enabled our Y to live its mission while facing the challenges of these difficult economic times. He is a quiet, but determined, leader. Through his unfailing commitment to service and community, the Y has never wavered in its dedication to building strong kids and healthy lifestyles.”
Here are some of the successes the Y has achieved under Howard’s leadership:
→ In the mid-1980s, the Y addressed the concern of “latch-key kids” by developing the School Age Center program. This program grew in the past 20 years to become the largest child care provider in Winnebago County.
→ The 1995 addition to the downtown Pennock Branch strengthened the Y as a community leader in the healthy development of all citizens. The facility also came into compliance with ADA standards, making it accessible for people with disabilities.
→ Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northern Illinois merged with the YMCA in 1998 in an effort to expand mentoring services in the community. The partnership is proving to be successful and beneficial to all concerned. Today, more kids than ever before have a caring adult role model in their life.
→ YMCA Camp Winnebago grew with the addition of the Webster Complex, the High Ropes Course, and the Johnson Environmental Education Center. This made possible year-round environmental education and experiential learning for youth.
→ The YMCA expanded into an underserved region of northeast Winnebago County with the opening of the Northeast Branch in December 2007. This new facility was built in collaboration with the Rockford Park District. The recent Seer Analytics member satisfaction survey shows it is one of the top performing Ys in the country compared to similar YMCAs.
Howard recalls the impact the YMCA has had on his life. He said: “I know the YMCA changes lives. It did for me personally as a high school dropout. It was a staff person at my local YMCA who helped me realize potential that I could not see in myself. He helped me get a job and encouraged me to go back to school and on to college. If it wasn’t for the Y, I don’t know where I would be today.”
He says this very same thing is happening every day at Rockford’s YMCA. Young, dedicated staff members are positive role models working with kids from all walks of life. Some of these kids have supportive, caring families, and others are not so lucky. But in all cases, programs like the Y Black/Latino Achiever, Link to Success, Teen Reach, the afterschool centers, youth basketball, and the Y’s swim team are teaching our youth the core values they need to grow into successful, responsible, contributing adults. Howard said, “That is what the Y is all about.”
Howard called his decision to retire “one I approach with mixed emotions. … I am extremely proud of all we’ve accomplished these past 37 years. I am also looking forward to a healthy, successful retirement. There are exciting times ahead for me just, as there are exciting times ahead for the YMCA. I leave with great confidence in this Y’s ability to continue delivering its mission and serve the needs of our members, our youth, our families and our community for generations to come.”
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