December 22, 2014
I started working at the YMCA in 1998 as an employment trainer in the Y Alliance Workforce Development programs. Previously, I was an operational manager with a chain of retail stores. I changed careers because I wanted to make a difference in my community.
At the Y, we have daily interactions with families who are often dealing with very challenging situations. We offer various programs and services aimed at helping people at every age – from babies to adults to seniors – to help them build healthier and brighter futures.
Sometimes, life gets so busy and you forget about the impact we can have on others. Then something happens that reminds us that our gestures, small and large, can have a profound effect in someone’s life. An example of such a moment happened to me last weekend while I was holiday shopping.
A woman approached me in the store and said she remembered me from the Roseland YMCA more than 10 years ago. I’m sorry to say I didn’t remember her right away. She talked about how supportive the Y staff was when she was in the welfare to work program, and how I was always willing to let her talk or cry, depending on what she needed that day. She was grateful for the financial and emotional assistance provided by the Y. With a newfound confidence and help from the Y and a family member, she made the brave decision to leave an unhealthy home environment and move to Minnesota so her children could have a chance at a better life.
She found a job and needed child care for her children. Her first thought was to find a YMCA. “I knew that as long as there was a Y nearby, my children would be safe,” she said.
Today, her oldest child is in college. All of her children have been involved in programs at the YMCA over the years. Because of her positive experience, we’re now nurturing the next generation of Y kids.
I felt a renewed sense of purpose after speaking with her. As we go through work each day, we must remember that each of us represents the Y’s commitment to communities, children and families. Sometimes it helps to hear about the impact we have on others, and moments like this remind me that even the smallest gestures of kindness can have a deep impact on someone’s life.
Audrey Jacobs is the senior director of Programs, Family & Community Engagement Services at the YMCA of Metro Chicago.