YMCA of Greater Hartford Celebrates Cause Driven Leaders!

Posted on 5/4/15 by Will Kusek

The YMCA of Greater Hartford is a cause driven organization.

This means we think differently because we consider our community needs first, find the resources to address these needs, and measure our impact; we put a caring adult into the life of every child, are good stewards of the resources entrusted to us, and work in collaboration with others to eliminate the disparities in health and education; and it means we communicate our vision to our members and celebrate the work we do by collecting and telling our stories in the community.

At our 2014 Annual Meeting, the YMCA of Greater Hartford celebrated three different cause driven leaders in the YMCA. These three individuals were nominated by their peers and they certainly live our cause every day in the work they do. They are Jalisa Collins Major, Norm Button and Jesse Flaherty.

From left to right, Jesse Flaherty, Norm Button, Jalisa Collins Major, and John Reilly

Jalisa Collins Major from the Glastonbury Family YMCA has demonstrated her leadership skills in the area of Youth Development. Jalisa is the type of person who is determined and pushes herself 100% with everything she does, even if she claims to be having an off day. Jalisa has assumed responsibility of the Kindergarten through 2nd grade program at Naubuc School and has built a friendly structured environment. If for any reason Jalisa is not there, the kids know what her expectations are and proceed with their daily routine. Jalisa has demonstrated a strong bond with all of the families in her program, and she has made it her mission to know every family, parents/guardians, by their first name.

She has done an amazing job making Naubuc a family friendly environment, and the parents have commented on Jalisa’s exceptional leadership skills. No matter the situation, she is devoted, honest, and genuinely cares for every single person she comes in contact with. Jalisa is a natural born leader and has so much potential to do amazing things in the future. Congratulations Jalisa!

Norm Button from YMCA Camp Jewell
has demonstrated his leadership skills in the area of Social Responsibility. Norm is always doing the right thing, and when he is not doing what he is supposed to be doing, it is because he is helping someone else. Norm is a tireless worker who oversees the day to day maintenance and facilities of the 560 acres at YMCA Camp Jewell as well as out of the ordinary projects. Not only this, he finds time to help individuals with whatever they need here at camp. The amazing thing about Norm is that he does whatever it takes to get the job done, be it a massive task, or just something to make an individual’s day better.

Our third honoree was selected as the association overall Cause Driven Leader. Jesse Flaherty serves on the staff of the Indian Valley family YMCA.

Jesse is a personal trainer, a group exercise instructor, a Ready to be fit coach, and also demonstrates his leadership through the relationships he has developed as a certified trainer with our LIVESTRONG at the YMCA participants. Jesse has worked closely with survivors as well as terminally ill cancer members in order to improve their quality of life.

Jesse has worked at the Indian Valley Family YMCA since the doors opened in August of 2011. For him, each of those days has been about impacting members in positive ways, but every day has also made an impact on him.

Here is a part of Jesse's story:
The first time I met Burt, he asked me to show him how to use the treadmill. He was hooked up to an oxygen tank and I assumed he was a smoker, but Burt was actually born with one and a half lungs. This affected his physical abilities, but never his personality or love for life. I taught Burt how to use the treadmill, but Burt taught me that being a fitness trainer is not always about physical ability - it's about building relationships.

Burt passed away two years ago unexpectedly during a routine procedure. There is a bench in the hallway at the Indian Valley Family YMCA in remembrance of Burt. I like to sit there sometimes and remember my friend.

Mandy was in her 30s and the mother of three young boys when she was diagnosed with cancer. We don't generally allow children to attend LIVESTRONG trainings, but Mandy had overwhelming anxiety about being separated from her children for extended periods of time. I respect my boss, but I knew the right thing to do was to sneak those boys into the Y through the back door and let them participate with mom. I taught Mandy and her sons how to stay active during a difficult time, but they taught me what the "family" part of the Indian Valley Family YMCA is really all about.

Impact goes in both directions at the Y. It would take me days to mention all of the ways the Y has changed me and altered my life path. It is an honor to be a part of the Y movement.

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