Shane Riffle never imagined a summer job before college as a YMCA lifeguard would turn into a lifelong affiliation, but the Brainerd Family YMCA CEO still believes in the faith-based nonprofit.
The YMCA works to support the people and neighborhoods that need it most by addressing community issues, such as school readiness, chronic diseases and childhood obesity.
"The great thing about the Y is we're a federated nonprofit, and we're one of over 10,000 neighborhood YMCAs across the country, so there are a lot of us out there," Riffle said.
The Brainerd Family YMCA Board of Directors announced more than a year ago that Riffle was the new CEO. The 47-year-old husband and father of two joined the organization after longtime CEO Randy Klinger resigned after serving the YMCA for 23 years.
"Before Brainerd, I was in Myrtle Beach, S.C., as the chief operations officer at the YMCA of Coastal Carolina, which is very touristy. It's what you think when you hear 'Myrtle Beach'-lots of golfers, people of wealth and means," Riffle said.
During his 25 years with the YMCA, Riffle also served as executive director at the West Family YMCA and Boise City Aquatic Center in Idaho, and program executive at the Countryside YMCA in Ohio.
"I was at a point in my career where I started thinking that ... I would like to make CEO-type of decisions, so I jumped on the website and was looking around, and had a lot of different opportunities and conversations," Riffle said. "There was a certain criteria that I was looking for ... that it would be a position that would challenge me but not break me. I knew I wasn't ready for my first CEO position to be at a really large YMCA, so the size of the Y was really important to me ... and then the community."
His key roles are to ensure the financial security of the Brainerd Family YMCA, develop and lead philanthropic efforts and to oversee operations and program development, which meet critical community needs.
"There's such a wonderful feeling in Brainerd. Brainerd's just changing, and there's a lot of new leaders, and we're really working hard to revitalize this community and make sure that everyone has access, opportunity and that it's a destination," Riffle said.
The YMCA was founded in London in 1844 by George Williams and a small group of his friends to help young people find a positive foundation for their lives. The YMCA came to America in Boston in 1851 and quickly spread throughout the United States.
Riffle was also born in England. He grew up around the U.S. as the son of a career Air Force noncommissioned officer. Riffle has a bachelor's degree from the University of Cincinnati and has many certifications, including health coaching from the American Council on Exercise.
"During my first year (in Brainerd), one of my goals was to re-introduce the Y to the community as a YMCA. There was such an opportunity to do more, to partner more ... bringing in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) programming, the summer learning loss prevention, safety around water," Riffle said. "We weren't doing those things, so starting a foundation with our staff-building their competencies as leaders and understanding what these programs are and then make sure they have the resources and tools to implement them."
The Brainerd Family YMCA faces increased competition for members from other fitness centers.
"We are confident that membership at the Y is of great value, and we truly welcome all," Riffle said. "Our financial assistance allows us to keep our promise of never turning away anyone because of inability to pay. We will always work hard to reach more people and have a positive impact. Everyone who comes through our door has the opportunity to belong to our cause."
The Brainerd Family YMCA on Oak Street includes among its many amenities fitness rooms, new cardio and strength equipment, a full-sized gym, a racquetball court and two pools.
"Through our staff, we've systematically looked at every department and identified where they're gaps in programming and where we could do more and then where could we partner with others to do even more," Riffle said. "And that's one of the things that I've been working. I want to make sure that we are part of the conversation, part of that collaborative who are making these types of things happen, which is why we have such a strong involvement with Crow Wing Energized."
Crow Wing Energized is a grassroots community health and wellness movement led and funded by Crow Wing County, Essentia Health and the Statewide Health Improvement Program.
"We are so much more than people often realize," Riffle said of the Brainerd Family YMCA.
"From our health and wellness team having certifications as health coaches to our supportive and empathetic approach of connecting with members, we are here to meet people where they are with their health, whether it is someone new, someone struggling to make healthy choices, or those who are already fit."