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Copyright 2014 Sun Journal
Sun Journal (Lewiston, Maine)
DANIEL HARTILL, DANIEL HARTILL, Staff Writer

AUBURN -- Three-year-old plans for a new $15 million Auburn- Lewiston YMCA -- including a new campus on 93 acres overlooking the Androscoggin River -- still have a place in the office of the nonprofit's chief executive officer.

But CEO Steven Wallace keeps the drawings and renderings of the pristine campus in a stack behind his office door.

"We haven't ditched the plans, but we're looking at them again for feasibility as well as looking at other current opportunities," Wallace said.

Rather, the new CEO wants to look at ways the local YMCA can work with groups to share the expense of a modern facility. And maybe, the YMCA can serve the community even better if it has partners, he said.

"Where can we, as the Y, team up with other folks who want to work with youth development and health and wellness and have an overall community impact?" he asked.

It's the kind of question he has pondered since arriving in the job on April 28.

He has become the nonprofit's third CEO in about a year.

In June 2013, former CEO Brian Dubois resigned. James Lawler, who had preceded Dubois, returned to serve as an interim director until a permanent replacement could be found.

In early April -- after a four-month-long national search and the examination of 40 candidates, the YMCA board hired Wallace, a Marine Corps officer who spent the past few years working at area chambers of commerce. He last served as the president and CEO of the Southern Midcoast Chamber of Commerce.

He came to the YMCA because he believes that it can help the community be healthier, he said.

"I had for-profit opportunities that I was looking at," Wallace said. "When I looked at the YMCA and the mission of the YMCA and all of the potential that it could do for the families here to make the community a better place, hands down, that's what I wanted, to be here," he said.

It was a long way from where he started.

He was born and raised in Muskegon, Mich. After high school, he joined the Marines. He started out as an enlisted Marine and climbed the ranks.

"I got to do so many things," he said. He visited 18 countries and three combat zones during his 21-year career.

He spent years aboard helicopters, rising to the title of crew chief. A crash during the first Gulf War led him to change jobs and earn his commission.

As an officer, he honed his leadership skills.

"I worked on large-level million-dollar projects," he said. The work translated to civilian life, first working to help people at Brunswick Naval Air Station find jobs elsewhere. That led him to the chamber and eventually the YMCA.

"I don't think the community knows what this YMCA is," he said. "A lot of people look at it as a gym or a place to come and work out."

Many don't understand the quality of the work that happens here, he said.

"The most surprising thing to me when I arrived was the depth of this staff and the passion of this staff," he said, "They believe in the YMCA's mission. It's not just a job and a paycheck."

The YMCA has a full- and part-time staff of about 120 and an annual payroll of $1.7 million.

The operation remains in the black and, though the big changes may be farther in the future, smaller changes are coming.

Wallace has ordered new exercise and strength-training equipment totaling about $170,000. And he is working on making some enhancements to the facility that might allow more people with physical disabilities to use the gymnasium and pool.

And he is trying to bring the YMCA to more people in the community.

"There are a lot of community ties, but I don't think we as an organization have communicated the full mission and capability of what the Y is," he said.

"I look at the Auburn-Lewiston YMCA as having the ability to change this community, not only today but 10 years and 20 years down the road," he said. "And that's exactly why I wanted to come here."

dhartill@sunjournal.com

 

July 17, 2014

 

 
 

 

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