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

This photo provided by OceanGate Expeditions shows a submersible vessel named Titan used to visit the wreckage site of the Titanic. In a race against the clock on the high seas, an expanding international armada of ships and airplanes searched Tuesday, June 20, 2023, for the submersible that vanished in the North Atlantic while taking five people down to the wreck of the Titanic. (OceanGate Expeditions via AP)
A new movie based on OceanGate’s Titan submersible tragedy is in the works: ‘Salvaged’

MindRiot announced the film, a fictional project titled “Salvaged,” on Friday.

Craig Hess (Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office)
Sultan’s new police chief has 22 years in law enforcement

Craig Hess was sworn in Sep. 14. The Long Island-born cop was a first-responder on 9/11. He also served as Gold Bar police chief.

Cars move across Edgewater Bridge toward Everett on Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2023, in Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Edgewater Bridge redo linking Everett, Mukilteo delayed until mid-2024

The project, now with an estimated cost of $27 million, will detour West Mukilteo Boulevard foot and car traffic for a year.

Lynn Deeken, the Dean of Arts, Learning Resources & Pathways at EvCC, addresses a large gathering during the ribbon cutting ceremony of the new Cascade Learning Center on Thursday, Sept. 28, 2023, at Everett Community College in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
New EvCC learning resource center opens to students, public

Planners of the Everett Community College building hope it will encourage students to use on-campus tutoring resources.

Everett Police Chief Dan Templeman announces his retirement after 31 years of service at the Everett City Council meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Everett police chief to retire at the end of October

Chief Dan Templeman announced his retirement at Wednesday’s City Council meeting. He has been chief for nine years.

Boeing employees watch the KC-46 Pegasus delivery event  from the air stairs at Boeing on Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019 in Everett, Wa. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Boeing’s iconic Everett factory tour to resume in October

After a three-year hiatus, tours of the Boeing Company’s enormous jet assembly plant are back at Paine Field.

A memorial for a 15-year-old shot and killed last week is set up at a bus stop along Harrison Road on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2023, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Teen boy identified in fatal shooting at Everett bus stop

Bryan Tamayo-Franco, 15, was shot at a Hardeson Road bus stop earlier this month. Police arrested two suspects.

Man charged with dealing fentanyl pills that led to Arlington overdose

Prosecutors charged Robin Clariday with controlled substance homicide. He allegedly handed Bradley Herron the pills outside a hotel.

Seattle woman identified in fatal Highway 99 crash

Elena Mroczek, 74, was killed Sunday in a crash involving a 19-year-old.

Most Read