YMCA of Greater Brandywine President and CEO Denise Day Announces Retirement Date of June 2023 

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Image via YMCA Greater Brandywine.
YMCA Greater Brandywine CEO Denise Day.

 

ymca of greater brandywine

If you’ve had the pleasure of meeting Denise Day, President and CEO of the YMCA of Greater Brandywine, you’ve sensed the passion that she pours into all that she does. From leading a team of more than 2,000 staff to serving more than 50,000 members across eight locations, Day operates from the heart. Now, a nationwide search is underway to find Day’s successor as YGBW announces her retirement. 

“You don’t devote 37 years of your life to something that you take lightly,” says Day as she reflects upon her expansive career, spanning YMCA locations in Nebraska, California, Delaware and across the state of Pennsylvania. Of her 37-year career with the YMCA, 23 years were spent in Chester County. The impact that she’s had is noticeable. 

Vision Meets Innovation and Dedication  

No one knows this better than Jim Paro, Chief Strategy Officer for YGBW– and a colleague who served alongside Day for more than 13 years. Paro reflects on the qualities that made Day’s career such a success, noting her vision, innovation, dedication – and passion for the Y mission.  

“I’ve seen Denise’s career develop over a number of years. She’s a visionary who is able to see and understand long-term trends and motivate our team to execute on that strategy,” says Paro.

“This visionary spirit played out a number of times during Denise’s tenure as our CEO – especially in the merger of the two Chester County YMCAs which formed the YMCA of Greater Brandywine back in 2014.”

Leading Under Pressure 

Innovation also fueled Day’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Leading an organization that is heavily built upon in-person interaction during a quarantine is not an easy task. Day worked under pressure to quickly create a new virtual format and to revise the use of bricks-and-mortar facilities to best serve the community.

“When it became clear that the community had a need, Denise jumped right in with viable solutions,” explains Donna Urian, Board Chair for YGBW.

“She was the driving force behind us leveraging space within the Brandywine and Jennersville branches for COVID-19 vaccination sites open to the whole community. It’s part of the Y mission to serve all – and Denise really embodies our mission.”

Not only did Day repurpose facilities as vaccination sites, she also led the team to open Learning Centers for families trying to navigate the world of virtual learning.  

YGBW opened eight learning centers in 2020 so that children could focus on their virtual classes with the support of YMCA staff. And, parents could focus on their day jobs.

“While the Y was closed Denise ensured we were there to serve our communities through emergency childcare, blood drives, and food distribution sites,” notes Paro.

A Career Built Upon A Solid Foundation 

“It’s no surprise to learn that Denise is a tremendous athlete,” comments Urian. “The dedication and passion she brought to her softball career translates through to many areas of her leadership. She’s driven to succeed.” 

Day’s softball jersey, number 10, was retired at her alma mater, the University of Nebraska, in 1999, a rare feat. After college, Day continued her softball career, playing competitively in California before landing on the gold-medal-winning US National team in 1990 and the PanAm Game team in 1991. 

By 1992, Day had worked for six years at various YMCA locations in Nebraska, California, Pennsylvania – and was serving as Executive Director at the Western Branch YMCA, Delaware’s flagship branch. 

“I was being called to continue my work in the community,” says Day.

A Legacy of Growth 

When Day isn’t hard at work in her offices in West Chester, she’s likely hard at work on the YGBW pickleball courts. Day’s passion for pickleball is more than a hobby, it’s a strategy. One that is characteristic of her leadership style – and perhaps will be her legacy.  

With more than 40 courts, YGBW offers hundreds of hours of playtime weekly to their more than 1,900 pickleball players – and the numbers continue to climb. Day continues to develop plans to bring a dedicated pickleball facility to the Chester County community in 2023. “Even while writing this next chapter in her personal life, Denise has her eye focused on growing YGBW,” continues Paro. 

That isn’t out of the ordinary, given all of the ways that Day has grown the association and the Chester County community over the past 23 years.  

“She introduced the 7th grade initiative as a way for local teens to form healthy habits. She christened the West Chester Area YMCA – and found a way to reimagine the Oscar Lasko YMCA to keep its doors open when asked by the community. She gave new life to our branches in Kennett and Jennersville through remodels. And, she even offered leadership to a neighboring Y association in Lancaster, providing shared services for two years,” shares Urian. “Denise always has an eye on the future and a hand to lend to the community.”  

“We are going to miss Denise’s influence on our association,” continues Paro. “But she has left a lasting legacy on our Y – and her influence will be felt for years. She’s positioned us to continue to grow far beyond her tenure.” 

Day is set to retire from her role as CEO in June 2023. She is working closely with Urian and YUSA, the organization’s National headquarters, to conduct a nationwide search to find her successor.  

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