During the past several weeks, this country has witnessed violence that has had a major impact on our society, as well as, Staff and Members. After many discussions with a cross-section of our Board of Directors, Staff and Members, I want to provide a thought-driven message to help us ALL move forward. Our Leadership Team, Executive Directors and others have participated in several communications regarding the ongoing national dialogue.
The brutal murder of George Floyd was a despicable and cowardly act that has brought to the surface, very raw emotions about inequalities within our own respective communities and workforces. Conversations about how we treat each other have been the cornerstone of the Y’s history and mission for almost 170 years. We strive to stand for spiritual, social and mental health of our youth, adults and families.
If we plan on “talking the talk, we MUST walk the walk”. It would have been disingenuous on my part to send this message before taking a hard look inside our own organization. As we continue these difficult conversations among staff and the community we serve, we want to ensure that our lens towards equity and inclusiveness is very clear. We recognize and respect all the feedback we have received and we are committed to doing our best to manage these issues. Six months ago, our path forward in recognizing and addressing inequities began with me and our Board of Directors making a statement that acknowledged the need for change. We hired one of Rhode Island’s finest in Kobi Dennis, Manager of Diversity, Inclusion & Special Projects, to lead this effort. His proven track-record in bringing ideas, training, strategies and culturally relevant solutions forward is unparalleled. Much of the work he has begun was temporarily derailed when COVID-19 changed our workforce. We are focused on recommitting to our mission of developing healthy minds, body and spirit as we continue our structured reopening.
How we are measured should depend on what we do and not what we say we do. I am asking you to become more involved in our local YMCA’s as staff, members and volunteers. Our vision is to move forward with all partners at each branch and camps. We are fully committed to our urban initiative that will create positivity and measurable impacts to the community we serve. This is an opportunity for everyone to come together “FOR A BETTER US”!
With Dignity & Respect,
Steven G. O’Donnell
Chief Executive Officer
YMCA of Greater Providence