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New Greenwich Y CEO Excited to Unveil Renovated Facility

"I took this job because I don't see the negative past, I only see the positive future," newly appointed Greenwich YMCA CEO Ed Philipp said in a recent interview. "I only see the opportunity that's in front of us… and

Ed Philipp, newly-appointed CEO of the Greenwich YMCA, said he is excited to "turn the facility back over to the members and the staff," following the completion of renovations at the end of this month.

"The members and our staff have been dealing with this construction for so many years," Philipp, who came to the Greenwich YMCA in August, said during a recent interview. "To finally give this facility back to them, fully finished, the way it is supposed to be, will be a great thing."

"I mean, right now our members have to go through the locker rooms in order to get to the basketball court," he said. "I can't wait until there's no more dust and no more noise — to be able to just let the members have a normal YMCA experience — and let the staff focus on providing that experience instead of focusing on getting the building finished and all the other things that go with that…"

Philipp comes to the Greenwich YMCA from the Rye, NY, YMCA, where he served as Chief Operating Officer for the past nine years.

He said once construction is complete he will be focusing almost entirely on growing the Greenwich Y's membership and expanding its program offerings.

Philipp should be the right man for the job, having grown the Rye YMCA's membership and programs considerably following the expansion of that facility in early 2003.

"There were definitely some parallels to what's going on here," he said of his experience in Rye. "I think if you look at my past job, you see the parallels with the renovation and expansion finishing… to grow membership and programming. I came on there just after a major expansion of that facility earlier that year, just as the Y was trying to explode in membership."

Philipp, who hails from Poughkeepsie NY, said during his nine years as COO of the Rye YMCA, "we were not only to handle the membership boom and explosion in programming — but were also able to focus on member satisfaction — and we became recognized as one of the top Ys in the country in terms of membership satisfaction scores."

"We were also involved in numerous national YMCA initiatives that put the Rye YMCA at the forefront of the national movement," he added. "So my experience at the Rye YMCA was one of program building, membership building and staff development. We had a commitment to excellence — and I hope to transpose that onto the Greenwich Y."

Philipp said as per the YMCA's overarching mission, he hopes to strengthen the Greenwich YMCA's presence in the community and put a stronger focus "on our members and on satisfaction."

"The goal is to meet the needs of the community… and our job is to go out and find out what the needs of the community are, and serve them effectively," he said, adding that the Y will be doing that via focus groups and surveys with members, as well as by working with various community stakeholders, including other non-profits in town such as The United Way and The Boys & Girls Club.

"Data is very important driver, I think… so we're going to be sending out membership satisfaction survey soon… so we can get a baseline… and from there we can develop an action plan to improve," Philipp, 39, said. "For example we're putting together a customer satisfaction survey for our summer camp that we just finished. You know, anecdotally you tend to think that everything went well with summer camp — the kids always seem like they're having fun — but we have to survey the parents and find out what worked and what didn't, and make plans for next year."

Philipp grew up in Poughkeepsie and graduated from Rutgers University with a degree in exercise science and sports management (after originally pursuing engineering). After college he took an internship at his local Y, where his mom was an aerobic coordinator.

"That was really my first taste of the Y as an employee," he said. "After my internship ended, I stayed on as a weight room trainer, and got to know the Y and the members. I knew that was definitely the career I wanted — being a fitness instructor…"

He also worked as a substitute summer camp counselor.

After graduating college, Philipp applied for positions at area Ys, while continuing to work part time for Poughkeepsie Y. Finally in September 1995 he landed a position as the health enhancement director for the Rockland County YMCA in Nyack NY.

Two years later Philipp took a job as recreation director in the Town of Poughkeepsie Parks & Recreation Department — but it didn't take long before he realized that the Y was really where he belonged.

"When I got into the parks recreation department, I kind of realized, in pretty short order, that while the job was great, I was running the department a lot like a Y," he recalled. "So, it started to dawn on me that the Y was where I belonged… "

Four years later Philipp made his triumphant return to the Y when he took a position as associate executive director at the New Rochelle YMCA. He was there for three years before taking the COO position in Rye.

So what does Philipp like most about working for the YMCA?

"In a nutshell, the reason I like working for the Y is we get to change people's lives in a positive way," he said. "And when you realize that, it brings a whole new meaning to your work."

"When I first started working at the Y, I thought I was just there to keep the fitness center going, so people could come and exercise," he said. "I didn't equate what exercise meant in people's lives — but after you start hearing people's stories, you start to realize the profound effect the services the Y offers has on them — whether its an exercise program for someone recovering from a heart attack — or after school child care for a family the desperately needs it — the face that we're making positive difference in people's lives is exciting."

"As CEO, I'm a little removed from that — I'm not the one actually delivering those services," he added. "But what I do here every day helps the front line staff make those changes in people's lives."

Philipp said he plans to bring more of the initiatives of the national Y organization into the fold of the Greenwich Y.

"It's the Y Foundation's promise to strengthen the foundation of the community — through youth development, healthy living and social responsibility," he said. "It's the Y USA's promise … but it's something that hasn't really been focused on here in Greenwich up until this point. I don't think this Y has been focused on Y National initiatives in the past — so one of the things we're going to learn to do is speak the 'YMCA Way' here in Greenwich."

Comparing the two Ys, Philipp said although the Rye Y is only two years older than the Greenwich Y, it is "more established — more considered the community center of Rye."

He said because Rye is a smaller town and the Y there plays a larger role in the community, it's more well-utilized and receives stronger funding.

"Because it is a smaller community, that allows the Y there to command that kind of standing," Philipp said, adding that although it's a smaller facility, it enjoys about double the membership of the Greenwich Y, and, as a result, "a larger budget and a larger staff." In addition Rye Y's program offerings are greater and "more diverse," compared to what's offered in Greenwich, he said, adding that he hopes to change that.

When asked which programs are most successful at the Greenwich Y, Philipp replied, "The swim team, dive team and water polo team are probably our strongest programs."

"Most Y's in the country don't have a water polo team, route: {:controller=>"announcements", :action=>"show", :id=>"ymcas-greenwich-aquatics-dominates-water-polo-event"} --> or a dive team — I bet you could count on one hand the number of Ys that have . The non-profit, which keeps its operations going using a mix of membership fees, program fees, private donations and grants, has reportedly also reached a settlement with JPMorgan Chase, which issued the original $20 million loan, under which the Y must pay back the loan over the life of the tax-free bonds issued for the project, currently 23 of 30 years. In addition it has reached settlement agreements with contractors. A major part of Philipp's role will be

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