By Anna Lothson
Jan Pate made her mark at the West Cook YMCA, and recently decided it's time for someone else to have that chance.
Pate, the chief executive officer of the West Cook YMCA, announced she'll be resigning from the organization at the end of next month. She has spent 17 years in leadership posts as a volunteer and on staff in national and international YMCA organizations. Pate has served the West Cook location for eight years — as development director for four years and CEO since 2009.
"I just felt that I had put everything I had in that period of time," Pate said in a recent phone interview following the announcement of her resignation. "I put my whole heart and soul into it. I realized sometimes it's time to pass the baton."
Pate will be ready to hand off the responsibilities Dec. 20, her last day. An interim CEO will be named soon while the West Cook YMCA board searches for a successor. With no specific direction in mind, Pate said she's ready to review a new opportunity. She suspects her next move will have a similar public service role.
She's 57 now and thinks she's nearing the end of her "work life" as she called it, so she'd like to have the chance to "make one really big impact," before that hits. She also thinks it's beneficial for an organization to shift leaders so someone else can bring their own vision.
"It seems like the right time," said Pate, who also served one term as an Oak Park village trustee. "It's not just about me personally. It's about growth and development. Every leader comes with different strengths."
Before that chance comes, the longtime community service leader will have time to look back at her years with the Y, think about the people she's met and the people who've made a difference in her life, too.
"I will miss the people, and I mean all the people." Pate said. "I have a phenomenal staff with a lot of leadership. I will miss our resident members. They are a wonderful group of men. And I will miss our members."
That's what really makes the YMCA what it is today, she said.
"When you put that together, it's really the people."
Despite leaving on a fond note, Pate admits that the organization — like so many other nonprofits — has had its share of challenges, especially in the past few years. The challenge began eight years ago when the organization decided to end its ambitious capital campaign to fund a new building. That stifled some dreams for some people, she said,
"We had to rebuild a strategic vision for the Y and the reputation of the organization," Pate said. "And that coupled with the economy …A lot of people kept us financially stable and afloat."
"We've come a long way," she added. "It was a tough time for everybody."
Her efforts bringing the Y thorough this period have been recognized by her board.
"Jan brought a high level of energy and enthusiasm to the West Cook YMCA. Under her leadership, several important collaborative relationships were forged with other area community organizations who share the Y's commitment to making the communities we serve stronger," said David Phelps, board chair, in a news release.
Accomplishments listed were: strengthening a link with Hephzibah Children's Association, being a leading child welfare communications specialist, and overseeing humanitarian work. This includes Pate's work as project manager for integrated community returns work in Kosovo with the United Methodist Committee on Relief.
"The main partnerships that Jan developed and nurtured are excellent examples of how the YMCA inspires and impacts the lives of all whom we serve," Phelps said.
Pate hopes that influence can translate to her next adventure.
"I hope that whether it's inside the Y movement or inside another organization, it will be a job where I impact people," she said.
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