Executive director says farewell to the Childs Park YMCA

BY DEBORAH FIGGS SANDERS

With so many people and blessings to be grateful for, I really don’t know where to begin. So, I’ll start at the beginning.

Seven years ago, the YMCA of Greater St. Petersburg welcomed me as the executive director of the Childs Park YMCA. Not knowing what laid ahead, I embraced the new position and all of the wonderful opportunities the then two-year-old 15,000 square foot building could offer.

Bringing over 20 years of experience of multiple job skills and professional expertise, I knew that south St. Petersburg needed programs and services deserving the community.

Adding to the current list of programs were ZUMBA, Prodigy Cultural Arts Program, free Voluntary Income Tax Assistance (VITA), our Neighbor-to-Neighbor Christmas Program, a St. Petersburg Library Branch, free sewing classes and free legal services by the Community Law Program.

Deborah Figgs-Sanders, Childs Park, featured, YMCAI also added on several other services such as free tenant legal services by Bay Area Legal Services, arranged for the Power Broker magazine and The Weekly Challenger to be distributed, line dance class, free faxing, free copies, free notary services, financial literacy workshops, the mayor’s satellite office and so much more.

Not to mention a very special partnership with the Juvenile Welfare Board in hosting the Wrap Around Services Collaborative (WAS) where we brought professionals together offering valuable presentations, information and program/services with each other to better benefit our residents.

The Childs Park YMCA has changed lives, exceeded boundaries of service and can best be described as one of our city’s best- kept secrets.  The branch quickly became a community resource center, or to better describe it as “a center for our community enriched with valuable resources.”

Since April 2010, this life-long resident of St. Petersburg has embraced friendship and partnerships with over 100 agencies/nonprofits and donors to provide school supplies, over 4,000 backpacks, free haircuts, free Snack Packs, free computer use, karate, archery, Thanksgiving dinners, the Community Spelling Bee, Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, just to name a few.

However, my most rewarding responsibility was the Y’s Y-Achievers Afterschool and Summer Academic Programs, which provided quality mentoring and academic assistance for elementary-aged students that was second to none. The routine was structured, disciplined but fun and filled with sincere appreciation for the students and their parents.

We were truly a family and the bonds formed will last a lifetime. I am grateful to the parents who entrusted us with their children, but more importantly, I am blessed for the children who welcomed the attention that they so desperately deserved. We worked hard. We made a difference in the attitude, behavior and academics of our bright young stars. Our children deserve our very best and the Childs Park YMCA family was determined to provide just that.

Respectfully, I must mention community service.  Since relocating back to the city in 1998, my work began with the Lake Maggiore Neighborhood Association, the St. Petersburg Police Civilian Review Board, several boards, Student Advisory Committee, Parent Teacher Association, The PACT, Agenda 2010, Get out the Vote and my beloved Zeta Upsilon Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.

I have worked, given and realized the trials and efforts required for community service. Not done for fame or show, service is what we all should do. We should share God’s blessings to others as we have been blessed. And to the YMCA of Greater St. Petersburg for the resources provided to help work the mission, you are appreciated.

So, to everyone along my journey, I thank you for every agency or organization who volunteered their services to enhance any CPY event, thank you.  To all donors, volunteers, Y staff and partners, you mean the world to not only the families who benefited from your unselfish generosity but from this humble heart who will never forget my wonderful seven years spent at 691 43rd St. S in St. Petersburg.

I won’t name names for fear of forgetting someone, so with that said, you know who you are. Please know that I am full of love, respect and appreciation for you all.

To my family, my husband, sons, mentees and dear friends—we did it! We are what is meant by “teamwork makes the dream work,” and I don’t plan on waking up anytime soon.  Never stop working the dream because there is so much more to do.

I’m going to miss my daily hugs and their bright smiles of accomplishment. I’m truly going to miss the awesome Childs Park staff, my extended family.  However, I’m not going anywhere. I am sure our paths will cross because for me it doesn’t end here.

Thank you to all of the warriors, activists, leaders, public servants or whatever role you claim.  Our community needs all efforts big and small.  I pray for your continued support in my next phase, wherever my faith in God will lead, protect and place me to make a difference.

Please keep me in your prayers and let’s keep “doing the work!”  My official last day at the Y is Friday, April 14.

2 Replies to “Executive director says farewell to the Childs Park YMCA”

  1. Valerie Dorn says:

    The only thing about lifes changes is realizing people must move on to other places when the times God calls for it . Seeing an amazing contributer to our community leave a position that she did so well for so long , it’s a sadden moment seeing the changes happen before our eyes , wishing you the very best for you the person that we don’t want to see leave us because you brought good especially those in need you always approached evereyone with a loving heart that obviously full of caring,kind,considerate,helpful,serving in the community of St.Petersburg Florida .You are awesome with so much more love inside of your heart to spread to and for others no matter where you go ,thank you for all you’ve done( For all people).Best wishes sister on your new endeavors ahead in your future sistah Deborah Figgs-Sanders~Job well done Sistah~Blessings~

  2. Demetrice (Dede) Allen says:

    Deborah, continued blessings to you in all that you do. You are truly an inspiration. Dede

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