Jennifer Ryan-Safsel’s newest challenge: Modernize and expand New Rochelle YMCA as its CEO

Jennifer Ryan-Safsels newest challenge: Modernize and expand New Rochelle YMCA as its CEO

A devoted parent, a successful career and Pelham citizen are all phrases that describe Jennifer Ryan-Safsel. Ryan-Safsel recently was named chief executive officer of the YMCA in New Rochelle, an institution in existence for 120 years. Her vision is clear, and she is determined to build a YMCA like no other.

Ryan-Safsel said she wants to put Christian principles into practice through programs that build a healthy spirit, mind and body for all who participate at the YMCA.

“We are going to be focused from here on in with a vision of customer service, in getting the facility up to date and modernized and bringing more community and Y services that complement our mission,” Ryan-Safsel said.

Her plans for the YMCA include installing bike racks for both members and employees, making the facility more welcoming and bright with a lobby that is comfortable and relaxing for members. Adding new locker rooms, a teaching kitchen, expanding fitness classes and creating a new green roof with gardens are additional ideas that the new CEO has for the YMCA. As well, she and her staff are looking to rebuild the sailing team. They are looking for a new coach, lifeguards and swim instructors. Also, because the YMCA is in the New Rochelle City School District, Ryan-Safsel wants to expand the child-watch program for people who are exercising.

The New Rochelle YMCA’s mission is to address and help solve critical community issues through the delivery of engaging, quality programs and services.

Ryan-Safsel came from Hope’s Door, an organization that assists victims of domestic abuse and domestic violence. At Hope’s Door, she was the director of development and community relations, where she handled fundraising and visibility in governmental relations. “We talked a great deal about healthy relationships,” said Ryan-Safsel. “We are going to bring a lot more health and wellness into the community.” 

Born and raised in Massachusetts, Ryan-Safsel got her degree in public policy at Syracuse University. After graduating, she moved to Washington, D.C., taking a job working for Senator John Kerry. While working on Capitol Hill, she educated people on how to become involved in government and community policies in over 16 states and 130 congressional districts.

“My experiences in fundraising, grant writing and in government will be very helpful skills in managing and recruiting good people,” said Ryan-Safsel. “I have been in the community for 22 years and have many relationships with a lot of people who I am pulling in from the community to help me. I am very excited to be here to rebuild the Y.”

One way the New Rochelle YMCA will build community involvement is to offer youth and government programs.  Its social responsibility team will partner with different schools to teach government and how people can get involved. Lavar Larrier directs the social responsibility program and is looking to help Ryan-Safsel with anti-bullying and drug-addiction programs. Every month when you walk into the YMCA, there will be a bulletin board about what is the cause of the month. For example, this month is Mental Health Awareness Month with the bulletin board filled with stories and facts about mental health.

Staff training and development is an important goal of Ryan-Safsel’s. “The Y is not just a gym and pool. The Y is a career path. We are an international organization. When people come to the Y to work, once they start in the Y programs, they can go to any Y in a different state to work.  I want to make this Y to help people. I think it has so much potential.”

The New Rochelle YMCA held its 120th Anniversary Gala on Thursday at the New Rochelle Surf Club.  The gala featured a silent auction, live auction and a live band. After the gala, the YMCA is planning a fundraising campaign with a goal of $5 million.

“I want to focus on doing staff training and development,” Ryan-Safsel said. “A lot of people complain about our Y. Despite what people say, it is so valued here. Our staff is so kind. Right now, during this time when there is so much anxiety that we see on TV, I tell my friends to shut off the TV and come to the Y because it is very diverse here. We have programs for young kids, older people and everybody gets along.”