For many of us, the YMCA was a place we could go to experience fun activities and be in an environment that allowed us to swim, play basketball, and feel that we were in our own little world of peace and fun. The “Y” was a place where we could take a step up in our play from the daily playground experience that the parks offered, to a veritable country club for us as youth.
The Renaissance Pointe YMCA is continuing that “Y” experience, and so much more, by meeting the needs of not only Southeast Fort Wayne, but the entire city, under the direction of its Executive Director (and newly appointed District Director) Amos Norman. The branch is building a foundation for the community with a goal of “healthy mind, body, and spirit,” and has established itself as a much-needed entity for patrons to stay physically active while addressing their mental and social stability during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Norman is a University of Saint Francis graduate and a man of faith and great character who is wise beyond his years. He took the reins of Renaissance Pointe three years ago after 10 years at the Boys and Girls Club and has tried to build upon the branch’s previous leadership.
The YMCA is a cornerstone of Southeast Fort Wayne and gives adults and youth accessible programming they can tap into to assist in their growth and understanding that “physical fitness” goes far beyond being in a gym or swimming pool. Norman has made an immediate impact on his community by gaining the trust of those he works for and with.
Here are six questions with Norman.
Q: How have you put your stamp on this community as a new leader?
A: I want to help people have structure and programs that are impactful. We are trying to continue a great culture of inclusivity established prior to my arrival. I feel that my experiences in leadership at the Boys & Girls Club prepared me for the challenges in this position. I just had to make the shift from working with primarily youth to working with adults and youth at Renaissance Pointe.
Q: How has the “Y,” specifically Renaissance Pointe, handled the need to be accessible during the pandemic?
A: We knew that with students out of school and families trying to make ends meet, there would be a void that needed to be filled. One of the greatest needs is accessibility to our building and having food available not only for individuals, but for entire families, as well. We couldn’t open our facilities as they once were (due to state guidelines), so we set up stations in our building that allowed us to serve more than 300 meals a day, with the total meals served, reaching over 15,000 in a few short months.
The community developed trust in what was being done to help them make it through this difficult time, and the partnership(s) are getting stronger daily. The previous administration gave us a huge steppingstone and template to guide us as we began to discover the most pressing needs and address them. With my youth background, I wanted to set the tone and secure additional funding needed to push our youth program to be one of the top programs in the city. I know how hard we’ve worked as a staff to meet the needs of those we serve daily. If I say I’m going to provide programming, events, or be in full operational mode daily, then we as a staff need to deliver.
Q: The YMCA is a melting pot of people and cultures with different needs and lifestyles. How do you address all the needs?
A: We try to serve and meet the needs of our diverse populations by growing a lot of the programs we offer, such as “Summer Celebration” in collaboration with Fort Wayne United and the City of Fort Wayne. This “celebration of diversity” has now reached more than 2,000 in attendance. We try to reach the Burmese, Latin American, Asian as well as African-American populations in an attempt to be all-inclusive in our mission. We constantly discuss how we can meet our patrons’ needs in an immediate and impactful manner.
As I looked around Renaissance Pointe, I saw adults working out on machines in the gym area and Pre-K youth lining up for activities. Seniors were in rooms with hearty discussions going on, and it looked like business as usual. It warmed my heart to see all these things going on.
Q: Is this a daily occurrence for so much activity to be going on at Renaissance?
A: The YMCA should be a place where you feel comfortable and accepted. We’ve put ourselves on the map as a place where all groups are a viable part of our community. We have to be more than just a gym or place to swim because there are too many needs to be addressed daily. Sports and youth activities are still a huge component of what we do, and we won’t waiver from that, but with the way society has changed, our emphasis has to be all-inclusive daily.
Q: You’re only as good as the staff around you. How did you go about selecting your staff?
A: I selected my staff with the understanding that I don’t want to be the best at everything that we are trying to do here at Renaissance Pointe or we’re not going to go very far (laughs). I want them to feel free in expressing their unique thoughts, skill-sets and ideas and even their constructive criticism of me because that will only help my growth as a leader. I want to nurture and support them to be the best at what they do, and I hope I’ve done that.
I have an operational brain when presented with an idea or initiative, so my thoughts are: Why are we doing what we do, and do we have the clientele aligned to make this an impactful program? Hopefully, I’ve conveyed this to my staff.
Q: How will Renaissance Pointe look moving forward in this post-COVID era?
A: We are a microcosm of society as a whole, but we have to stay true to our tagline, which is “For All.” We want our patrons and clients to have a holistic experience at Renaissance Pointe with these things in mind. If your fix is on Christian emphasis, or you want to get in shape or socialize, we offer those things in a nonthreatening, nonjudgmental environment, and hopefully, you’ll enjoy our branch each time you visit.
The doors of all YMCA branches are open to address any particular need our patrons may have and we promote that. The needs of our community are changing daily, and we have to be prepared to respond by providing quality programming, food, and mental health options for our community to access daily.
I think that we’ve done, and will continue to do this.
This article was originally published in Fort Wayne Ink Spot.