YMCA programs ready to launch

Following two years of discussions and planning, the Young Men’s Christian Association, known as YMCA, has officially launched its first headquarters in the Cayman Islands with the recent arrival of its CEO, Gregory Smith.  

Mr. Smith joins the Cayman Islands “Y” from St. Petersburg, Florida, as a veteran of the nonprofit organization, having served youth and families for 18 years in Florida and Texas. 

However, this is not Mr. Smith’s first time at a newly established YMCA. In 2008, he orchestrated the opening and successful promotion of a YMCA in Parkland, Florida, that garnered nearly 500 members in the first six months.  

Upon accepting his position in the Cayman Islands, he said, “I have been granted one of the rarest experiences a Y professional can have, to establish a new Y, and in such an amazing community of people.  

“I will work diligently to understand and serve the specific needs in Cayman and fully embrace this opportunity to impact our generations to come.” 

Local members of the community started a YMCA in 2011 and reached out to the YMCA in St. Petersburg for help. 

“St. Petersburg has been instrumental with the YMCA start-up in the Cayman Islands. We have basically been establishing the formal organization, the legal entity in Cayman, establishing the board of directors,” Mr. Smith said.  

“The official organization was given its legal status in 2012. The Wilmington Trust made a significant contribution of US$75,000, which gave the ability for us to get off the ground,” he added. 

Located in the Chamber of Commerce building in Governor’s Square, YMCA Cayman is officially recognized as a regional member of the YMCA’s Latin American and Caribbean World Alliance. The organization will operate on a budget of $200,000 and has a full board of 23 directors, including Collin Anglin, director of sports; Ormond Williams, president of Cayman National Bank; and Donovan Ebanks, former deputy governor.  

Community needs assessment  

Since the Cayman Y’s launch, a community survey was conducted to determine the programs needed in the Cayman community and to gauge people’s expectations of the YMCA.  

Around 500 members of the community took part in the survey, and the main area of concern was youth development.  

“The primary area of focus is youth development, working with youth to reduce crime, to reduce a lack of structured activities for kids after school,” Mr. Smith said. “The community has told us to make sure the kids are off the street, make sure they are doing something productive.” 

Another concern raised was obesity in the Cayman Islands. 

“We know that childhood obesity is an issue that needs addressing. We know that the family unit is challenged with working parents, with stress related to trying to instill in a child all the values they need, yet they are getting so many other influences. We are really trying to protect that family unit and work with parents, seeing how can we help parents be more successful parents,” Mr. Smith said. 

With the community needs survey conducted, the Y’s initial planning stages are officially complete, and it will start launching programs in March. 

The YMCA has made connections with numerous organizations and has entered into a partnership with Little League Cayman. The association is urging independent organizations to combine resources in an effort to improve the community as a whole.  

“The Y is not here to do this independently. If the Y does anything great, it will be to reach out and help connect other organizations that have the same intentions that we do, and help to develop a culture where we work together,” Mr. Smith said. “That makes us more effective. It certainly makes us more efficient, and helps us gel together our resources.” 

Mr. Smith is not the only one excited about his new role as CEO. YMCA Chairman Pastor Randy Von Kanel said, “Greg’s active role in developing past programs and maintaining previously established YMCA organizations is what makes him so perfect for our needs in Cayman. The enthusiasm and obvious drive he has exhibited in his career to date makes him an outstanding choice to help shape the Y programs in Cayman.” 

YMCA organizations provide an environment where men, as well as women and children, can foster their faith and work towards strengthening their community. Mr. Smith noted that the YMCA is for everyone, not just men or Christians. 

For more information about the YMCA in Cayman, visit www.ymcacayman.ky, call 928-5987 or email Mr. Smith at [email protected]

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