WALLA WALLA -- The long road home took Randy Grant through California, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and New York before his return to his roots as the new executive director of the Walla Walla YMCA.Lara Goodrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Grant, who took over the position March 1, will meet with residents Wednesday as the Y hosts a community gathering.
Born and raised in Milton-Freewater, Grant graduated from McLoughlin Union High School and Washington State University. In 1981, after working as a swimming and water polo coach at WSU, Grant began work as a swimming and aquatics coach at the Spokane YMCA.
"At Washington State, I was coaching Division I-caliber athletes," he said. "That's a very defined skill set. It's not the human, holistic approach that you get coaching all ages at the Y ... I could see people of all cultures, all races and all backgrounds come in and feel welcome at the Y, and that made me feel welcome."
The diversity of the organization's outreach and membership, as well as its community focus, has kept Grant engaged and invested in improving its branches throughout the years.
"It's an amazing institution," he said. "There is no other charity that's stronger (than the Y). We're an association that represents the community. We're all about what the community wants."
Making the most of the organization's broad network, Grant has taken on various leadership roles at different branches of the YMCA all over the country. Throughout his travels, he has learned that no two branches are identical.
"I often say, 'If you've seen one Y, you've seen one Y.' Each one is unique."
Grant thinks his experience around the country as well as his personal attachment to the Walla Walla branch will be good for him and the YMCA.
"I'm glad they wanted to get someone with a national Y background, which can help the Y, and someone who has experience here too," he said. "It's the whole package. Professionally, it's a good spot for me, and personally it's the best because ... I went to this Y when I was a little kid."
With 6,700 members, the local Y is a strong branch that plays an important role in the valley, Grant said.
"We must remain a community center of relevance," he said. "We cannot stay in our four walls and hibernate. We don't want to just say, 'We're the best in Walla Walla.' We should challenge ourselves to be the best that we can be for Walla Walla."
Grant looks forward to what the future holds for the local Y, and is dedicated to the job at hand.
"I'm a local kid, and I've seen lots of YMCAs ... but this is my Y," he said. "I will be the best steward I can of this operation."
Time and date
To accommodate community members' schedules, gatherings to welcome new Executive Director Randy Grant will take place in the YMCA lobby at three different times tomorrow, 6:30-9 a.m., 11 a.m.-1 p.m. and 4-7 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.