2013-10-25 / Top Stories

YMCA Update - Exec Director Gets Ready

By Jack Lund

Rockaway YMCA Director Rick Hopkins Rockaway YMCA Director Rick Hopkins A Q&A with the New Rockaway Y Executive Director Rick Hopkins

With the opening of the Rockaway Y just weeks away, I wanted to use this column to introduce readers to the branch’s newly appointed Executive Director, Rick Hopkins. In his nearly three decades of working with the Y, Rick has held senior leadership roles at YMCAs across the country. Rick has dedicated his career to improving the lives of others and will bring that unique experience and passion to his role as leader of this historic new facility. Please join me in welcoming Rick to the community and enjoy this Q&A!

Q: Please tell the readers of The Wave a little about your career and professional background.

A: I started with the YMCA right out of college in the early ‘80s and have worked at many different Ys in many different states. Prior to this latest adventure, I served in a senior leadership capacity with, YMCAs in Kansas, Illinois, North Carolina, Virginia, New York, Ohio and Washington, D.C. The Rockaway YMCA represents an opportunity to do the one thing that I never had the chance to do during my almost thirty years with the Y—open a new branch from scratch. It is rare to be in on the ground floor as a YMCA and the community grows together; so this is really a labor of love for me.

Q: What first drew you to working with the Y?

A: I’d worked part-time at the Y during my college days as part of a work-study program. I was a business major at school and then had the chance to play pro football for a year with the Kansas City Chiefs after I graduated. So I had both a sports and a business background, and I thought the Y would be the perfect place to develop my business acumen while working in the areas I most enjoy.

Q: What’s most exciting to you about being named Executive Director of the Rockaway branch?

A: During my career, I’ve worked in every type of YMCA there is, from small rural YMCAs, to large suburban YMCAs, to downtown and inner-city YMCAs. The Rockaways is unique in that it combines elements of all of the above on a day to day basis. It is such a diverse community. I can’t think of a better place where the YMCA could fulfill its mission of bringing everyone together in one environment and being part of that—along with the branch’s unique public private partnership— was very exciting to me.

Q: What are some of the unique features and programs that the Rockaway Y will offer?

A: We’re very proud that our two new branches in the Rockaways and Coney Island will feature the first aquatic centers of their kind in New York City. These facilities will help us fulfill the Y’s historic mission of teaching people the lifesaving skill of learning how to swim.

Q: Nearly a year after Hurricane Sandy, what are some of your impressions of the community?

A: Well, I wasn’t here for the worst of it, but what I’m seeing now is people are working hard to get back into their homes and get their businesses open again. And I see a lot of kids needing something enriching to do and a great place to do it. So the YMCA represents a beacon of hope and change for a lot of people. Q: What are you hearing in stores and shops and restaurants about people’s feelings about the branch opening?

A: Everyone I’ve spoken with in the community is very excited about the opening. It’s been a long process, but people can now see the siding and exterior features going up, and from the outside, it’s exciting for folks to be able to chart that progress.

Q: How involved are you with the staffing process?

A: We’re now in the process of reaching out and hiring at the director level and I’m totally involved in that process—reviewing resumes every day, interviewing folks, taking them on site tours and out to eat in the neighborhood. Our priority during October is to hire our fulltime leadership team—including directors in every major department, along with the support team on the business and building side. Then, in November, we’ll begin recruiting our line positions.

The key thing is to get the right people in place from top to bottom. Because it’s the front desk person or the Zumba instructor that people are going to see every day.

Q: Describe what your day-to-day work looks like between now and the opening?

A: I can’t do it, because every day is different! For now I’m focused on staff recruitment and on-boarding and, on a more personal level, settling in as a fulltime member of the community. Q: What’s the most important thing the Y can offer the Rockaways?

A: I think the most important thing we can do is position the Y in the right way. That means listening and being responsive to the community so we can put together the best, most mission-driven YMCA possible. I know expectations for this branch are especially high, and I hope that in time we’ll be able to meet and exceed all of those expectations!

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