After a quarter of a century at the helm of the Rye YMCA, Executive Director Gregg Howells has announced his retirement. Howells, whose YMCA career spans nearly 40 years, will step down on June 3.
“It’s never easy to leave a job you love,” remarked Howells. “However, the timing is just right for the Rye Y. Our flood recovery efforts are almost complete. Our board of directors has embarked on a strategic planning process that will guide our organization for the coming years. Our newly expanded childcare programs have really taken off. And we’re all excited about the spring opening of our second facility, the Studios at the Rye YMCA.” He added, “I’m confident that as I pursue the next chapter of my life, the Rye Y will continue to thrive.”
Howells arrived in Rye from the Old Colony Y in Taunton, Mass., in June 1996. Over the next 25 years, he helped the Rye Y grow its membership, budget, and impact.
He oversaw the 2002-2003 renovation and expansion of the Rye Y’s facility, an $8.4 million project that doubled the size of the building, as well as the project’s capital campaign, which raised $5.2 million.
Under his leadership, Activate America, a YMCA response to the country’s growing obesity, declining fitness, and chronic disease crises, was launched in 2005. Composed of community partners from several sectors, the Activate America coalition formed Safe Routes to School committees in the Rye, Mamaroneck, and Port Chester school districts; supported infrastructure improvements that led to safer roadways; provided grants and logistical help for school gardens; and organized community forums around critical health and wellness concerns.
In 2012, the Y secured a $120,000 Community Transformation Grant, which launched their community health work in Port Chester and Mamaroneck. This funding gave the Y the opportunity to work with local partners to promote health and wellness and reduce chronic disease in underserved populations.
Howells led the Rye Y’s year-long Centennial Celebration in 2014, including an endowment campaign that raised $1.9 million for the Y’s future.
The Rye Y’s childcare programs have been greatly expanded. They now include Preschool Enrichment for school-age children at two locations, summer camp at the Y and Resurrection School, and a new full-day, licensed childcare program for ages 18 months to 5.
Howells worked closely with City officials on zoning issues to enable the Y to create a second facility on Boston Post Road; The Studios at the Rye YMCA is set to open in June. The vibrant, state-of-the-art facility will be used for indoor cycling, yoga, HIIT, group exercise classes, personal training, and community events.
“Gregg has provided extraordinary leadership during his tenure,” noted Board President Frances DeThomas. “Despite significant challenges, including floods, economic downturns, and a pandemic, he leaves the Rye Y stronger, more vital, and more relevant to the communities we serve than ever before.”
“Leaving the Rye Y is bittersweet,” Howells acknowledged. “It’s been such an important part of my and my family’s life. My two kids grew up here, attended summer camp, were on the swim team, and used the fitness center. My wife Lisa is a regular in spin classes and the fitness center, and she was very active with the swim team parents’ committee and volunteering at the Rye Derby.”
He continued, “I’ve been fortunate to work with colleagues who believe deeply in the Y’s mission, and a board that is equally dedicated. I’ve been gratified by the loyalty of our members and the support of our community. Really, I couldn’t have asked for a more meaningful and rewarding career.”