He was just a teenager when he walked into the YMCA and got his first job, mowing lawns, changing air filters and cleaning bathrooms in Salina, Kansas. Today, Greg Gack serves as executive director of one of the leading YMCAs in Minnesota. His vision is what led to the new St. Cloud YMCA facility and the growth of many youth and community programs. So how’d he get here? Here are a few key steps over his 30-year-career and what he learned along the way:
The first step
Greg’s college studies were focused on teaching and coaching. When he had to take a semester off between student teaching and finishing his degree, he looked for a job that would add to his resume as a future coach and teacher. That summer, he got a job at the local YMCA where he learned hard work, servant leadership, and humility by serving in every area he was needed. After he graduated later that year, Greg became a program director at a YMCA in Kansas City, running youth camps, group exercise, and outdoor aquatics. The Corporate YMCA was just beginning to focus on Outreach Sports Programs, and Greg loved the mission-focus and the ability to make an impact in kids’ lives.
A global impact
After managing kids programming in his hometown Y, Greg was asked by his executive director to run the International Program for the YMCA. The program, which was just beginning at the time, brought Greg to Costa Rica. “The Y’s mission in Costa Rica was to get kids into schools and off the streets,” Greg says. “It was heartbreaking to see the circumstances these kids came from.” Greg helped develop the program in Costa Rica that gave kids a place where they could thrive in their academic and athletic skills, giving them an outlet that wasn’t crime. “I really started to see the heart and the mission of the YMCA at work, and I knew I wanted to continue being a part of that,” Greg says.
A bright future in St. Cloud
When the opportunity arose to move his family from Phoenix to St. Cloud, Greg needed a little convincing. Greg was drawn to the St. Cloud’s potential; being close to the metro, strong diversity, great school systems, and kind people. With an aging YMCA building, Greg saw an opportunity to transform a YMCA and the community at the same time.
In 2009, Greg, his wife, and their two young daughters moved to Central Minnesota, and Greg became the executive director of the St. Cloud Area YMCA. In the 10 years since Greg came to Central Minnesota, the community and the YMCA, have seen many changes, but the mission and vision of the Y have remained the same. “We want to be the destination for family wellness,” Greg says. “We offer programming for every generation, and we’re constantly coming up with innovative ideas that we can serve different segments of the market.” In addition to the programming and services that the YMCA offers, Greg is excited about the partnerships that have been formed in the last decade between the City of St. Cloud, CentraCare, and the YMCA. “Things get done quicker, and better, through partnerships. We’re so honored to partner with the City and CentraCare, the largest employer in Central Minnesota, to promote healthier communities together,” Greg says.
Why the Y for Greg
“One of the greatest things about the YMCA is their ability to see a need and create solutions to fill that need. I’ve seen it time and time again throughout my career,” Greg says. “From an international program that helps kids out of crime, to group exercise programs in the 70s, to day camps that offer a safe place for children outside of school, to Supervised Visit Programs that help rebuild families in a safe environment; the list goes on and on. The YMCA is a mission-focused organization, and I couldn’t be happier to devote my career, my identity, to an organization that responds to and fills needs in our communities.”
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