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YMCA strives for community feel

Administrative changes include new local director

Nov. 5, 2008

The Southwest YMCA in Greenfield has a new executive director as part of a restructuring effort that includes a new emphasis on community ties.

Gunna Middleton took over Oct. 20 after spending the previous 10 years in various YMCA roles, most recently at the John C. Cudahy Child Care Center in Milwaukee overseeing that branch, all three child care centers and all school-age programming.

Middleton is quite familiar with the Southwest YMCA, 11311 W. Howard Ave., where she was a member before working in the organization. She lives just a short distance away in New Berlin.

Getting the job was like “coming home,” she said.

Repositioning the YMCA

The move is one of the end results of a YMCA of Metropolitan Milwaukee restructuring as it strives to reach out and partner with community organizations, such as schools and the Rotary Club. Middleton shares in that goal.

“I would love for the center to be a hub in the community,” Middleton said.

The YMCA implemented changes to become more community oriented, said Donna Bembenek, senior vice president of marketing and fund developments. Groups have been formed to explore memberships, programming and facilities, with the goal to eliminate layers of management and be more responsible to members.

That goal was one of two factors behind the restructuring of the administration. The other factor was an effort to better streamline operations, Bembenek said.

Thirteen administrative-level jobs out of 358 full-time-equivalent positions in the organization were cut, while other members were moved to different roles.

Matt Mitchell, the former head of the Southwest YMCA, moved over to the organization’s central offices as vice president of wellness centers and facilities.

The changes mean members can expect more consistency between the branches, officials said. Instead of different program registrations at each of the 11 centers, for example, members will see the same process no matter where they go.

Retaining members

Despite the increase of exercise options and 24-hour fitness centers, Bembenek said membership has remained consistent at the YMCA, though membership rates have been adjusted — by as much as 30 percent. A high-end family membership used to be $95 and is now $65.

YMCA staff said they are not necessarily competing with those businesses because their organization is about more than fitness.

“We think ourselves as much more human development,” Bembenek said. “It’s a community organization, focused on individuals and families not just to lose weight, but to live healthier.”

Mark Schaaf can be reached at (262) 446-6605.

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