WORTHINGTON — Meredith Daley’s first day as executive director and chief executive officer of the Worthington Area YMCA is likely one she won’t forget.
It was the very day the local facility had to suspend its operations due to concerns over the spreading pandemic, COVID-19. Operations have been anything but normal since March 16, but the new director and her staff are stepping up and pivoting their resources to what may be needed in the days and weeks ahead.
“We have to anticipate the unknown at this point and serve our community with whatever need might arise,” said Daley.
That begins on Monday, when the facility opens to provide childcare to Tier 2 essential employees through a Learning Camp for children ages 5 to 12.
“We don’t know what the need will be, but we know we have a purpose for our community,” Daley said. “We want to play a role and do as much as possible there.”
In the past two weeks, YMCA staff has cleaned the facility from top to bottom — the rock wall, pool deck, fitness equipment and offices.
“We’re excited to open our doors (to members and the public),” Daley said Thursday. "We just don’t know when that’s going to happen."
In the meantime, the YMCA is one of eight ISD 518 mobile meal distribution sites for children ages 18 and younger. Those meals will also be delivered to children enrolled in the Learning Camp.
Also, Daley said staff is engaging senior members of the YMCA on Facebook, and calling to check on those who may feel isolated as a result of the governor’s request that people stay home to help slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.
And, with the YMCA’s annual Cruise Dinner now rescheduled for Aug. 14, Daley said planning is ongoing for the launch of the Y’s annual Strong Kids campaign, which typically starts in March with the Cruise Dinner.
Since Daley hasn’t been able to see normal day-to-day operations yet, she said she will be talking with YMCA members in the coming months about programming at the facility and looking for possible opportunities to expand on them.
“I think the Y has endless opportunities, and my goal is to continue to offer opportunities and touch as many lives as we can in this community and the surrounding communities as well,” she said. “Right now, we’re missing our members just as much as I think they are us.”
Daley said the Worthington Area YMCA is blessed to have a strong membership that continues to support the facility since its suspension of operations.
“You really do see the true meaning of community during difficult times such as these,” she said. “As someone new to the community, it's exciting to see the unity that has been displayed in the short time that I've been in Worthington. Although we are not together in a physical sense, we are better together.”
Prior to her arrival in Worthington, Daley served as Senior Aquatics Director at the Upper Main Line YMCA in Berwyn, Pennsylvania. She has extensive experience in facility operations, budget oversight, leadership and working with swimmers of all ages.
A native of Storm Lake, Iowa — her parents still reside there — Daley graduated from the University of Northern Iowa with bachelor’s degrees in Spanish and in leisure, youth and human services with an emphasis in programming. She also earned her master’s degree from UNI in human services administration.
Most of her mentors at UNI were involved in the nonprofit sector, so when she and her husband moved to the Philadelphia area for his job promotion, she pursued the position with the Upper Main Line YMCA.
“Through that position, I really found my admiration for the nonprofit sector and the Y in general,” Daley said. “You can see the work you’re doing and the daily impact on people’s lives in the community. There are so many good things that come out of the YMCA.”
While Daley’s hometown didn’t have a YMCA, she was heavily involved in recreation growing up there, from tee ball and softball to working as a lifeguard for the city and also being a swim instructor.
“I grew up on the lake, so being able to recreate in general was something that was part of my daily upbringing as a child,” she said.
Storm Lake, like Worthington, is a diverse community, and that was one of the many things that appealed to Daley as she considered the job here.
“I wanted to stay in a YMCA setting and continue the good work of the Y,” she said. “When I interviewed here, I felt almost an instant energy from all of the people involved in that process, as well as key stakeholders. I could just tell how invested the community is as a whole. That sold me on the position as well.”
Also, she’s excited to be closer to family. In addition to her parents in Storm Lake, her sister’s family resides in Rochester. Returning to the Midwest, however, means they will be farther from her husband Mike’s family in New Jersey.
Outside of work, Daley and her family — the couple has a 2-year-old daughter, Cora — enjoy hiking, nature walks and travelling. Her favorite activities at the Y include group fitness classes, walking and swimming.
“Our daughter Cora loves to swim,” she added.
The Daleys look forward to getting involved in the community in which, she said, she’s finding endless opportunities.