“John Ashdown has poured his heart and soul into the YMCA to the benefit of the children and families in this community. Thousands benefit from our YMCA, and thanks to John’s vision, the organization has never been stronger than it is today. I speak on behalf of the board and the entire YMCA community when I thank John for all he has done for our Y,” said YMCA Board President, Rick Myers.
Ashdown retires as the longest-serving CEO of the Family YMCA of Fayette County.
“The YMCA is part of the fabric of this community. The people here – the staff, members and volunteers – truly are the lifeblood of this organization. When I took this job six years ago, I felt it was a calling, and I have been blessed with six of the most rewarding years of my life,” Ashdown said.
“I have been blessed to serve the Y, Fayette County and many other organizations here locally,” continued Ashdown. “I have been honored to serve as the CEO of this Y. I have met and learned from some amazing and involved people – people on my staff, the volunteers here, and people associated with other Ys and the YMCA of the USA. The Y has been a huge part of my life and that of my family for more than 15 years. I have grown as a person as much or more as the Y has grown as an organization.” Ashdown continued, “I want to personally thank the residents of Fayette County for the awesome support they have given the Y during the past several years. Without their support, we would not have been able to provide quality services nor build our new facility. I encourage everyone to continue to support of our Y with their time, money and talents, as I believe our Y is positioned for future success.”
When John Ashdown took the job as CEO of the Family YMCA of Fayette County, the Y operated as a store-front on North 5th Street with six employees on a budget of $125,000.00. At that time, the Y had about 850 members. Over the last six years, under Ashdown’s leadership, the size and reach of the Y and its programs have grown exponentially. The Y has built strong collaborations with numerous local organizations, including Kaskaskia College, Fayette County Hospital, Vandalia Park District and several area school districts.
The Family YMCA of Fayette County now employs around fifteen people at any given time. In 2010, it moved to a brand-new dedicated 17,000 square foot facility on Rock Island, and has become a focal point of community service and involvement. With an annual budget of just under $400,000, the Y now serves all of Fayette County and part of Bond County. Approximately 900 kids participated in Y programs in 2014.
Ashdown was the driving force behind the YMCA’s move to its Rock Island facility, which brought a gym, expanded fitness areas, batting cages and athletic fields to the community. The facility, built during times of general economic slowdown, brought legitimacy to the organization within the YMCA of the USA and remains a sparkling gem within Fayette County.
During Ashdown’s tenure, the Y’s service to the community has remained a top priority. Ashdown spearheaded the Y’s 5-4-3-2-1-Go! Program, which reaches every fourth grade student in Fayette County. He also brought Silver Sneakers to the Y, which reaches over 60 senior adults with fitness and wellness programs at no cost to them. Moreover, his leadership and commitment to improving his community have resulted in his service to several local organizations, including the Vandalia Chamber of Commerce, Rotary International, Kaskaskia College Foundation Trustees, Fayette County United Fund and the Fayette County Interagency Council.
Board President Myers said, “Some communities spend millions in tax dollars to build and maintain government-operated recreational facilities, water parks, and sport centers. In Vandalia, we have a beautiful facility for community health, for the development of children and the social wellbeing of all. The difference is that our facility wasn’t built with tax dollars, and it is not maintained with tax dollars. It was built and managed by this YMCA, through the kind and generous donations of the people of this community, and we owe that to John Ashdown’s vision and his relentless commitment to seeing his vision through.”
The Y has been a part of Fayette County since 1982. As an organization that is founded, governed and supported by volunteers, the Y’s volunteer Board of Directors will coordinate the search for the next CEO, and will work with Ashdown to ensure a seamless transition to organization’s next leader. The hiring process is expected to take approximately three months. Board President Rick Myers will be leading this process with the assistance of YMCA of the USA. This process will include reaching out to key community leaders, stakeholders and constituencies.
“The Board intends to move quickly through this process,” said Myers. “However, we will take as much time as necessary to find the right leader who fits for our organization and community, and who can continue to move our Y forward.”
While the Board of Directors concentrates on the search and hiring process, the Board has named its current Health & Wellness Director, Ben Fraizer, Interim CEO to take over leadership of the organization upon Ashdown’s departure. Ashdown has pledged to assist Ben during this time of transition, and Board Vice-President Jim Pryor will head a Transition Committee to further facilitate the change. Ashdown stated, “Although I am resigning, the Family YMCA of Fayette County remains special in my heart, I want to be sure that it continues to grow and prosper. A lot of awesome things are in store for this Y and the community. My commitment to this Y doesn’t end with this announcement. I intend to do what I can to make sure this Y stays strong and grows even stronger.”
“It would take an eternity for me to tell you all that John Ashdown has done for this YMCA and for this community,” said Myers. “He dedicated his life to the Y and its mission of putting ‘Christian principles into practice through programs that build healthy spirit, mind and body for all.’ His love for the Y mission and this community is what brought this organization to where it is today. We have been privileged to have John as part of Y in various capacities for over fifteen years. As CEO, he has built a foundation that will allow the Family YMCA of Fayette County to grow and thrive in the future. Our entire community is indebted him for his hard work, leadership and vision for this organization.”
The Family YMCA is a non-profit organization that serves local children, youth and adults through programs, sports, child care and healthy lifestyles activities. In 2014, the Y provided $13,000.00 in scholarships, free and assisted programs. Within the YMCA’s financial capabilities, no person is refused program or membership privileges because of inability to pay.