Delaware Business Times: Linda Risk of the YMCA on meeting the changing needs of local families

In just three years, Linda Risk has climbed the YMCA corporate ladder. First hired as vice president of marketing and communications at the state level, Risk was named interim executive director at the Brandywine Y in June.

Today, she continues to wear two hats, but has added a feather. As the newly named executive director at the local branch, Risk is overseeing a $5 million expansion project — one that will lead to new opportunities for the community served, including a first-time youth fitness center. The three-phased, 19,000-square-foot project adds vertical space to the Brandywine branch and is tentatively slated for completion in the fall.

As both a macro and micro thinker, Risk knows the challenges of both promoting an organization that continues to be “all things to all people,” and building programs that meet the ever-changing needs of local families. To aid in her corporate VP role, a new hire will assist with day-to-day operations. Risk will continue to offer strategic guidance, budget management, and remain active with the YMCA board. Prior to the Y, her marketing skills were put to test within another nonprofit: Delaware’s Multiple Sclerosis Society. Earlier still, cable and local news positions lent immediacy to the tasks at hand.

She said fast-paced, deadline-driven responsibilities have always been a part of her wheelhouse.

“I thrive in this kind of work environment. I’m used to that; I like that,” she said.

Her more localized role presents opportunities to better know the families the Brandywine Y serves. “When I started in my interim role, I knew right away that it felt right being at the branch. … [I’m able] to observe the magic that happens in our hallways. I see members laughing,” she said, adding that for some, the Y is all they have in their lives.

While her professional experiences bring much to the table, a lifelong love for the organization speaks volumes.

“I grew up in the Y. I’ve been a member on and off since I was 6 months old. I held my first job at the Y,” she said, recalling her days as a camp counselor. A generational love is certain to continue: Her 5-year old and 3-year old recently attended a family yoga event at the Brandywine Y.

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