Q&A with ... Jennifer Gardner, Darien YMCA’s new CEO
DARIEN — Jennifer Gardner was recently named the new CEO at Darien’s YMCA.
She will succeed Pat Morrissey who retired after 22 years with the Darien YMCA. A Maryland native, Gardner attended Clemson University where she received a bachelor’s degree in financial management. After graduating, she moved back to Maryland and worked in banking outside of Washington, D.C. In 1996, she moved to New Jersey where she continued her career in banking. She said at this time she had no plans of moving further north.
However, when she got involved with a local YMCA, her career and life changed. She would go on to be the executive director at the Sussex County YMCA in New Jersey before accepting the new job in Darien. She will be residing with her family in Wilton.
The 46-year-old CEO recently discussed her role in the organization and what led her to being involved with the YMCA.
Q: What got you involved with the YMCA?
A: I was a swimmer through college and was into athletics. I joined the Y as a member in my community (in Sussex County, N.J.). Loved the Y, the atmosphere of the Y and the involvement of the Y in the community. When they had a position opened up for marketing director I applied. It was really because of my love as a member that I started working for the Y.
Q: What does your position involve on a day-to-day basis?
A: On a daily basis, I’m responsible for the overall operations of our programs and services within the building and out in the community. Also really in my position its helping to be a part of the community, be a part of Darien. Getting to work with the other businesses in town, the other nonprofits in town, the schools and helping to continue to make the Y a special place in the community.
Q: How will some of your previous experiences help the organization?
A: At my previous Y, I was very invested in the community. I was the board chair of the local chamber of commerce. I worked a lot with trying to do programs with the hospital and other community organizations that were looking to improve the health of the community. Also opportunities for the youth. So I’ve had a lot of experience and would love to bring that same experience to Darien.
Q: What would you say are some differences between your previous Y and this one?
A: Every Y is truly unique because the Y’s are here to serve the community that they are a part of. I did not have sailing camp at my last Y like we have here. While there are differences in the look of the community, or the makeup of the community a lot of the goals stay the same. To really work to provide the best youth programs, the best adult programs. To improve the health and well-being of the community with our services.
Q: What are some programs coming up for the Y?
A: Right now we’re in our shutdown period. We’re doing some maintenance. September starts a new year of our Holly Pond School. We are a very large provider for special needs programming in the community. We’re starting a brand new fall session of programming including special needs. Our swim team will start back up in two weeks. Our gymnastics program is very popular here as well.