In The Last Word, we sit down with an industry expert to share their wealth of knowledge with you. This issue, the conversation features Sarah Grai, the executive director of the Harriet and Joe Foster Family YMCA.
1. How did you get started in the community recreation industry?
I began working at the YMCA in a part-time capacity during my senior year of undergrad. I quickly discovered my passion for the work, and I’ve had the pleasure of serving the community for over 12 years now.
2. What’s been a key to your organization’s success? What are you most proud of?
Our organization has been successful because of its versatility to adapt over time. Our versatility allows us to make the greatest impact by meeting specific community needs, most of the time in conjunction with other community partners. We have done this through addressing food insecurity, youth mentoring opportunities and even capital projects.
3. What has been one of the biggest accomplishments of your career?
I have been fortunate to lead and serve many staff over the years. My biggest accomplishment is the impact I’ve made on them. By intentionally cultivating the passions and talents of staff members, we have been able to amplify our impact.
4. What has been one of the biggest challenges you have faced in your career?
In a previous role, I faced a major challenge of creating and initializing new organizational protocols to strengthen operational effectiveness. After developing relationships and trust with team members and volunteers, I was able to address the organizational culture, restructure the board, add a traditional fundraising campaign and create policies and best practices that aligned with our mission.
5. What is one lesson you have learned that other community recreation professionals can learn from?
In order to build relationships, there is absolutely no substitute for personal time spent. Spend time developing relationships and building trust with colleagues, team members, volunteers and community partners. I have prioritized this by placing time on my calendar to connect with others. Relationships are key to personal and organizational success.
6. Tell us one fact about yourself others may not know.
I love exploring in my free time. From hiking to kayaking, I always enjoy a good outdoor adventure.