Ted Wenta, senior vice president of operations for the YMCA of Snohomish County, stands on the concrete slab of what will be the main gym of the Everett YMCA. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Ted Wenta, senior vice president of operations for the YMCA of Snohomish County, stands on the concrete slab of what will be the main gym of the Everett YMCA. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

‘What is your passion?’ Ted Wenta’s is this place — and the YMCA

The senior vice president of operations helped shape the new Everett Y. Meanwhile, he’s battling cancer.

This is one of a collection of stories about nonprofits in Snohomish County.

In his office, Ted Wenta keeps a framed drawing his wife Teresa made as a girl.

It’s a second-grader’s sketch of the YMCA in downtown Everett, a century-old brick building that’s not quite as off-kilter in real life as it is on paper. But the building does have its quirks.

It’s a patchwork of pieces built when the president was Warren G. Harding or John F. Kennedy. Higher floors are closed off to people with disabilities. Yet the building is engrained in the memories of locals: swimming lessons, basketball games, the birthplace of friendships. It has outlasted many lives.

Wenta, vice president of operations for Snohomish County’s YMCA, knows how it feels to be attached to this place. His family has grown up here, too. As a staffer in charge of capital development, he has been one of the key people working to build a new, much bigger Everett Y that can serve up to 32,000 people. It’s scheduled to open late next year at 4730 Colby Ave.

“It’s fantastic, and it’s bittersweet,” Wenta said. “We’ve been on the same block for almost 120 years.”

Everett’s first YMCA burned in March 1920. Local lore says members hatched a successful plan, while the building was still on fire, to build a new downtown Y.

Over the past century, the center of the city’s population has shifted well south of 2720 Rockefeller Ave., where Wenta has worked for two decades. Leaving behind the constraints of the old building should allow the YMCA to double or triple the number of people it serves, by moving the community hub into the heart of its clientele.

The Marysville Y was brand new and the Mukilteo Y was in a trailer when Wenta moved from California to Snohomish County in 1995. Since then new branches have sprouted up in Mill Creek and Stanwood. Wenta is finally seeing construction on the $33 million project, at one of the most trying times in his life. He was diagnosed with kidney cancer in Sept. 2016.

He can sum up his health these days in one word.

“Stable,” he said. “There’s been fits and starts, I’m not going to lie. My wife and I have chosen to be very public about that, because we believe there’s a story to be told.”

Amid treatment, he made painful choices to cut back on commitments. He stepped down from his role as a member of the Everett School Board in July. He’s cut back hours at his day job. Wenta, a member of Bethany Christian Assembly, has been carried by his faith in God, he said.

And he’s still fired up about doing meaningful work.

The thing that keeps him up at night, he said, is trying to figure out how kids from Everett High School and North Middle School will adjust, when their community hub is no longer a short walk from class. There will be a need for volunteers to help with transportation.

Over 2,000 people volunteer at the YMCA each year in the county — from camp counselors to workout instructors to board members.

“I believe it comes down to, ‘What is your passion?’” Wenta said. “And that’s going to direct your path.”

Many of them are like Wenta when he was younger. His first camping trip was with the YMCA. So was his first job. When he looks around at others in leadership roles today at the Y, he sees similar stories.

“They grew into that, because someone invited them,” Wenta said. “Someone asked them if they wanted to be involved. And they stepped forward and said, ‘I’m available and I want to help.’”

Caleb Hutton: 425-339-3454; chutton@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @snocaleb.

Volunteers needed

To learn more about volunteering at the YMCA, visit ymca-snoco.org/support-the-y/volunteer.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Traffic’s creeping back and some transit to collect fares again

Community Transit and Sound Transit are set to resume fares June 1, but not Everett Transit.

Neil Hubbard plays the bagpipes in front of a memorial at Floral Hills cemetery in Lynnwood Monday morning. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Memorial Day tradition continues in Lynnwood amid pandemic

Loved ones placed flags at Floral Hills cemetery as bagpipes played in the distance Monday morning.

COVID-19 and domestic violence

Public Health Essentials! A blog by the Snohomish Health District.

Counting COVID deaths isn’t as simple as you might think

State relies on results of tests and death certificates in calculating the daily toll of the disease.

Stillaguamish Tribe gives $1M to food banks, fire services

“I had to do a double take,” said the director of the Stanwood Camano Food Bank, which received $300,000.

Island County gets go-ahead for Phase 2 of reopening economy

People can gather in groups five or fewer. Some businesses can open, if they follow guidelines.

The town the virus seemed to miss: No cases counted in Index

Some in the town of 175 fear outsiders could bring in the virus. Others just want things to get back to normal.

Worst jobless rate in the state: Snohomish County at 20.2%

In April, 91,383 were unemployed in the county. The aerospace sector was hit especially hard.

Boeing worker accused of murder after Everett party shooting

Police say the suspect, 35, made sexual advances and opened fire when he was turned down.

Most Read