Monday, August 17, 2009

Spirit of the Valley

Last Wednesday was the YMCA’s Spirit of the Valley Luncheon. I was the chairman of this year’s event which honored my father-in-law Charlie Jones. This was a special personal opportunity for me and it stimulated a lot of reflection on my behalf about Charlie (who I’ve known quite well since 1970 and knew casually before that) and my experience with the YMCA. This BLOG entry is about reflections on the YMCA and more broadly, the concept of volunteerism.

In the very early 1980’s…I think basically when I turned 30, I decided I had best start spending a bit of attention on my personal fitness which one could argue has become a lifelong obsession. So, I signed up for a co-ed fitness class and would go to the Y a few times a week. During this matt class, John Wells Jr. and I became acquainted. At some point in time, he asked me if I would consider joining the Board of Directors. I really hadn’t done much community service work since high school and zero community leadership work. I was honored and flattered and accepted.

I was born in upstate New York and met my wife Laura at the Lawrenceville School (which is where I met Charlie), in New Jersey. I was an import to Charleston and I was amazed at how easy it was to get involved in the community. I recall telling friends…most of whom lived elsewhere…how cool Charleston was. Yeah…they just get you involved and welcome your involvement. Anyway….I was impressed. As I became more involved, Charlie offered me a warning…be careful…the non-profits can suck up all your time.

I listened to that advice and decided I would not spread myself too thin…but would attempt to work diligently at any position I accepted or task assigned. Along the way, I bumped into several folks that were on many boards. Many of these people that were simply adding to the curriculum vitae were undependable. A lot of these folks had been encouraged by their employers to seek board positions. One of the problems though was they forgot to tell them to work! Now…I know I set the bar high and my expectations for performance are perhaps a bit steep…but I bet you can relate to what I’m sharing.

Anyway…….I worked diligently at the YMCA and ran the facility (from a board perspective) while John Wells Jr. headed the pool campaign. We worked through many tough issues together and this was all a great experience. The point of all of this is that this work I did…while it did in fact benefit the Y and in turn the community…it was really self centered. I was the winner in all of this and continue to be.

Don’t miss the opportunity to get involved and do a good job. You’ll get it all back in spades.


Nelle said...

Well said!

Nelle said...

Well said

Mary Warner Cook said...

And, Dave, I am trying to keep on that tradition as you taught me... I'll admit I am not as diligent as you, but I continue to work on it! Congratulations on a great job with the Spirit of the Valley. I am so sorry to have missed the luncheon. What a bday present that would have been... DP, Charlie and Gaston!!!

Dave Pray said...

Mary...We could all learn from you!