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Longtime volunteers, staff members honored at YMCA meeting

Brenda Negley hugs Butler YMCA executive director Sandy Ihlenfeld after being honored with a 25-year service award during the Butler County Family YMCA Association’s annual meeting at The Atrium on Thursday in Franklin Township. Joseph Ressler/Butler Eagle

PROSPECT – Staff, community supporters and organization leaders celebrated another year of providing services to the region at the Butler County Family YMCA’s first in-person annual meeting since 2019.

The event, held at The Atrium in Prospect, gathered together friends and employees of the YMCA to honor the organization’s events, projects, achievements and initiatives from the past year.

“We like to get together all of our board and our staff and our community supporters once every year, to celebrate what we do at the Y and what we do to support our community,” Butler YMCA executive director Sandy Ihlenfeld said. “It’s a very big deal for us to get together. I think everyone feels the same. They’re ready to come out and celebrate things together.”

“It was really hard for us not to have this. We had it virtually, but we didn’t have the attendance that we would have loved to have,” Rose E. Schneider Family YMCA Executive Director Carrie Ohorodnyk said. “It energizes me. It gives me a sense that I work for a great organization, that we serve people, and that my job has purpose, and it helps me to keep moving along.”

Dave Hilliard, president and CEO of the Butler County Family YMCA, was encouraged by the attendance at the event. It was “the highest we have had in years,” he said, at more than 160 RSVPs.

“We get to serve people; we get to care for other people. That’s our job – that’s my job, to care for other people,” he said in an address to the group, emphasizing the attitudes, sacrifice, commitment and humility of YMCA volunteers and staff.

“I want to thank each and every staff person in here, and each and every volunteer for serving people through our YMCA with that servant attitude,” Hilliard said.

Honoring staff and volunteers

Organization leaders honored John Gibson, a longtime volunteer who dedicated more than 23,000 hours over 16 years to maintaining ARMCO Park and Pool.

In a video prepared with thank-yous from staff and executive leadership, Gibson was lauded as a committed volunteer who helped define the park itself. As volunteer park manager, he worked on renovations at the dance hall, concession area, pavilions, pool house and ARMCO Hall.

John Gibson makes remarks after being honored with a volunteer recognition during the Butler County Family YMCA Association’s annual meeting at The Atrium on Thursday in Franklin Township. Gibson was recognized for his years of volunteer work at ARMCO Park. Joseph Ressler/Butler Eagle

“John’s passion, dedication, and commitment to preserving the park’s history, as well as securing its future, have been the driving force behind the park,” said Ohorodnyk.

“When I step foot on that property, I walk back into a memory,” Gibson said. “There’s so much history at that park.”

He recalled seeing names from as far back as 1944 written inside the dance hall at the park, and described his awe at the generations of stories it held.

“That’s what I’m trying to keep. My grandsons go there now, and I went there with my grandfather,” he said. “I hope and I pray that what I’m doing, that I’m creating memories for the next generation.”

Chairman of the Board of Directors Chris Martin highlighted the total of 241 volunteers and 11,166 total hours volunteered in 2021. According to the annual report for 2021, 894 youth participated in childcare, preschool and day camp programs, 790 participated in youth sports, and 756 took part in swim lessons.

“That’s an incredible resource for us to be able to reach into and provide those resources to our communities,” Martin said.

Butler YMCA executive director Sandy Ihlenfeld presents Tanner Vogt with a five year service award during the Butler County Family YMCA Association’s annual meeting at The Atrium on Thursday in Franklin Township. Joseph Ressler/Butler Eagle

YMCA staff members received honors for their five, ten, fifteen, twenty and twenty-five-year anniversaries working with the organization. One retiring staff member, Ginny Hammer, the YMCA’s former human resources director, was surprised with a video that gathered well-wishes from her coworkers and friends upon her retirement.

“I am honored, and I have been blessed for 33 years to serve such an awesome organization,” Hammer said. “I will miss this place. It really is about the people. We have wonderful facilities, but without great people, we wouldn’t be who we are. I plan to still be a part of the Y in whatever way I can.”

Board members approved

The Butler County Family YMCA also officially approved newly elected and returning board members to serve on the organization’s leadership teams. On the Butler County Family YMCA Board of Trustees, Larry Black, Ruth Purcell and Tammy Schuey were approved. On the Board of Directors, Rick Beardsley, Vicki Hinterberger, John Marshall, Chris Martin, Tom McIntyre and Dan Novakovich were approved.

On the Butler YMCA Board of Managers, Kevin Fazio, Sharon Gall, Garrett Kaiser, Benjamin Kramer, Juli Louttit and Tony Shakely were approved. On the Rose E. Schneider YMCA Board of Managers, JoAnne Gehm, Gary McKeown, Jerome Savoroski and Bill Tracy were approved.

The meeting was also the first day for a new board, the ARMCO Park Board of Managers, composed of Frank Cicco Jr., Bob Cordray, John Gibson, Ann Lascuola, Angela Maloney, Melinda Rhoads, Tony Shakely, David Todd, Ed Wadding and Karen Wise.