John Hoey, president and CEO of the Y of Central Maryland, has his work cut out for him: Get the word out on what the 155-year-old nonprofit does. And then make it do more. And then get that word out.
For starters, The Y of Central Maryland has been suffering from an identity crisis. The slogan on its most recent annual report implores: "If you think we're just a pool, look deeper." Besides combating the perception that the Y is "just a pool," the nonprofit has struggled to achieve a consistent image and operating strategy among its numerous locations and offerings in Baltimore City and the five surrounding counties.
A member of the Catonsville Y, for instance, may have no idea that his or her local fitness center is part of one of the 30 largest independent Y organizations in the country. Or that the Y of Central Maryland runs seven health and wellness centers, hundreds of health and fitness programs for all ages, and is the largest provider of child care in the state. And that lack of awareness about the Y's offerings was leading to declining membership and program enrollment.
Hoey, 48, aims to change all that. In July 2006, Hoey was wooed away from the private sector to shake up the aging nonprofit. At the time, he was perfectly happy in his role as president of Progressus Therapy, a division of Educate, a for-profit education services company that includes Sylvan Learning Center. Before that, Hoey had spent eight years in management positions at Citigroup in New York before moving to Baltimore in the late 1980's.
When the Y's search committee reached out to Hoey, he initially turned them down. But their persistence paid off.
"The more we talked, the more it struck me that this was a really important opportunity," says Hoey. "This is a much bigger and more impactful organization than I had understood from the outside. And it was an opportunity to do something really important in this community."
Research showed that the public had no idea what the Y of Central Maryland was all about, says Hoey. From Head Start school-readiness programs to senior spinning classes, the Y offers something for every age and income level, but few seemed to realize that. Last year, the Y of Central Maryland allocated more than $11 million toward scholarships and programs. Outreach efforts include programs for community groups, foster children, at-risk youth, people with disabilities, and low-income seniors. "The beauty of what we're doing is that we're serving the poorest of the poor and also everyone else," says Hoey. "We have the ability to impact people in all walks of life."
While health and wellness are core to the nonprofit's mission, the Y is not a traditional health club. You won't find flat-screen TVs or lots of Spandex in the weight rooms. Hoey calls the Y's target customers the "health-seeker" market. Think busy families and people new to fitness programs.
The nonprofit has a $37 million annual operating budget made up of a combination of membership and program revenue, government and foundation grants, and individual contributions. CareFirst and BB&T Bank are "some of our strongest partners," says Hoey. BB&T recently gave the Y a five-year, $300,000 gift. Johns Hopkins University was instrumental in helping launch one of the newest Y facilities, the Harry & Jeanette Weinberg Center at Stadium Place.
Next up is the redevelopment of the 50-year-old Ellicott City Y in collaboration with Howard County Public Schools and local businessman Bernie Dancel, president and CEO of Ascend One Corp. Opening this fall, the brand-new, 60,000-square-foot facility will include two gyms, two pools, and a larger fitness center. There are also plans to redevelop the Towson and Catonsville Ys, and to build a new Carroll County Y in downtown Westminster.
"It's a real community center," Hoey says of the Y's mission. "There are so few places left in our society in which you see all walks of life, in terms of diversity of age, income level, and that's what we're trying to achieve."
To learn how to help the Y of Central Maryland or to request additional information, contact Jeff Sprinkle, Chief Philanthropy Officer, 410-837-9622, ext 244. Or for general info, go toymaryland.org.