The New York YMCA has been focusing on the trifecta of mind, body and spirit for nearly 170 years, and Sharon Greenberger aims to further that focus despite the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic. With a background in urban planning and experience in economic development, education, health care and government, Greenberger is guided by the notion of community. Serving as the New York YMCA president and CEO is no different.
“We're very focused on empowering you to improving health and strengthening community,” Greenberger explains. “I think that we try to help New Yorkers find two things that everyone needs: a sense of belonging and a sense of achievement. People think of the Y as their second home.”
This strong sense of connection is something that drove Greenberger and her staff to create new methods of community in a socially distanced way after COVID-19 forced them to stop their normal operations on March 16. Since then, the Y has completely transformed itself. Now, the YMCA is providing housing for homeless, offering to house non-COVID patients to free up bed space for COVID patients in local hospitals, providing child care for health-care workers, creating online platforms with fitness classes as resources to its members and establishing a call network to connect with isolated seniors.
All this change and resilience reflects Greenberger’s own strength, fortitude and experiences. When she was battling cancer, she realized the importance of using the life force of others to succeed and survive. When she was running the New York City School Construction Authority she helped to design and build 100 new school buildings across the city and complete 2,000 construction projects within four years. When she joined the Bloomberg administration just after 9/11, she saw the fortitude of New Yorkers and their unwavering ability to support one another. Greenberger knows it is this resiliency that propels New York through this unprecedented crisis.
"I know we will get to the other side and it will require an enormous amount of resilience and strength, but I would just say, especially in New York, we are tough,” Greenberg says. “We've been to the other side many times before and we will get there now, just please stay strong.”
Listen to the full episode to hear more from Sharon Greenberger about focusing on continuous improvement, her passion for water skiing and her self-guiding rules of participation.
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