YMCA’s new Stanwood director brings big plans to the job

STANWOOD — With a new director in town, the Snohomish County YMCA is one step closer to building a community gym, meeting space and aquatic center in the northwest corner of the county.

The nonprofit hired Dawne Wentworth, 39, as director of the Stanwood-Camano YMCA. She started her new job Wednesday managing current programs and planning for a future facility.

“I think the great thing about the YMCA is it can be tailored to fit the needs of the community,” Wentworth said.

She hopes to expand children’s programs and set up new activities for seniors and families in the area.

The organization’s ultimate goal is to build a YMCA in Stanwood or Camano Island, said Scott Sadler, vice president and chief development officer for the YMCA of Snohomish County. Volunteers have been working toward that goal since 2010, when a privately owned Stanwood gym and pool closed. People initially approached the YMCA because they wanted an aquatic center, like the YMCA in Marysville, where kids could learn to swim and athletes could practice and compete.

However, it quickly became clear that there were other needs and opportunities in the community, Sadler said.

In the past four years, the YMCA has established a small office at Viking Village in Stanwood and started a number of programs in the area.

“We’ve got kids and programs in Stanwood and Camano right now, and we’re not going to wait for the building to pop out of the ground to make a difference,” Sadler said.

The programs include: academic help for middle and high school students; financial aid and college planning workshops; community service projects for local teens; a free summer meal and activity program for kids; and Chill &Spill, an art education program geared toward helping kids express and work through negative emotions.

This summer, the YMCA also offered its first day camp in the Stanwood area. Children participated in outdoor games along with trips to the Marysville facility to go swimming.

Though most of the efforts so far have been focused on youth education, Wentworth hopes to add senior health and volunteer programs soon. She is working with local senior centers to learn what activities would be best.

“We like to call it YMCA without walls,” Wentworth said. “It’s really not the building that makes the YMCA, it’s how the programs impact people in the community.”

The YMCA has five facilities in Snohomish County. A full-service YMCA typically consists of an aquatic center, gym, teen center, conference rooms and classrooms, including group exercise spaces, Sadler said.

The organization plans to customize the Stanwood-Camano YMCA to suit the area.

“The facility plans are still emerging,” Sadler said. “They’re really going to be driven by the site location and capital fundraising efforts.”

The project budget sits at $18 million, though it may be adjusted after planners decide on a site and draft more specific designs. A public fundraising campaign is expected to kick off after a location is identified, he said.

“It’s a big project,” Wentworth said. “It’s an $18 million project. Really, the community needs to continue to rally.”

Getting a director is a step in the right direction, Sadler said. Though YMCA staff and volunteers have been working in the area for four years, Wentworth is the first employee hired to focus specifically on Stanwood and Camano Island.

Wentworth has 16 years of experience with the YMCA. She started at a camp on Orcas Island and most recently worked in Seattle directing YMCA programs for children from low-income families.

“I like working in a community setting,” Wentworth said. “I just believe in what the YMCA offers, and I believe in the mission.”

The Stanwood-Camano YMCA is accepting ideas, donations and volunteers. The office is located at 8823 Viking Way and is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Thursday. People can call 360-629-9622 or email dwentworth@ymca-snoco.org for more information on how to get involved in the Stanwood-Camano programs.

Kari Bray: 425-339-3439, kbray@heraldnet.com

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