Richard Pollock, who lives in Highland Beach with his wife,
Mary Jo, has worked for the YMCA for 38 years. He is the CEO
of the YMCA of South Palm Beach County, which includes facilities
in Boca Raton and Boynton Beach. Tim Stepien/The Coastal Star
The YMCA is not all fun and games. Some people do have to work.
Take Richard Pollock, 60, for example. He has been involved for the YMCA in one form or another for 38 years— from his first job as a summer counselor at Camp Fitch in Springfield, Pa., and youth director in Youngstown, Ohio, to serving as the CEO of the Community YMCA in Red Bank, N.J.; COO and senior vice president of the Capital District YMCA in Albany, N.Y.; and director of the UMCA Conference Center Peniel-by-Galilee in Tiverias, Israel.
Today he is the president and CEO of the YMCA of South Palm Beach County with main family centers in Boca Raton and Boynton Beach and satellite centers at the National Council on Compensation Insurance headquarters in Boca Raton and at the Volen Center, serving 12,000 members and reaching 50,000 people annually through a variety of programs. There’s talk, too, about YMCA programs coming to Delray Beach.
“I grew up in the YMCA,” Pollack said. “I was one of those kids whose parents took to the Y. Then I worked at the Y all my summers through high school and college. I had a good feeling for the movement and the culture, so when I graduated, the Y in my hometown (Canfield, Ohio) recruited me to be a youth director and it was a good fit.”
He likes that the Y has a program for everyone. “There’s a number of testimonials,” he said, “from people going through depression, coming to the Y and finding friends; the single mom who could go to work because of the Y’s after-school programs with good role models; people who were obese losing weight. I see personally where the Y makes a difference in people’s lives.”
But even for members, it’s not all about fun, he explained, because YMCA’s goals are threefold: youth development, healthy living and social responsibility.
That means there are plenty of opportunities for volunteers who can help with the Y’s activities and fundraising. For example, the Y offers financial assistance, so that no one is turned away because of inability to pay. And the Y, he said, is engaged in conversations with lawmakers to ensure that issues important to the community are given appropriate attention (such as Type 2 diabetes prevention).
But then, again, it’s not all work either, he assured. “As you can imagine, my activities now are a little different from what they were as a 22-year-old youth director, but I’m still in spinning classes, and I use personal trainers and our wellness center for exercise.”
His wife, Mary Jo, uses the Y’s wellness and fitness programs. And daughters Shenley and Shelby work out at their local Ys, too. And, Shenley, by the way, is a counselor in the Community YMCA Redbank, N.J., family services programs.
— Christine Davis
Q. Where did you grow up and go to school?
A. I was born in Cincinnati but grew up in the small town of Canfield in northeast Ohio, where I attended elementary and high school. I went to college at Muskingum University in New Concord, Ohio.
Q. What are some highlights of your life?
A. Lifetime highlights include my marriage to my beautiful wife, Mary Jo, and our wonderful family. I’d have to add as an additional highlight: my 38-year career in the YMCA including two years in Israel and travel to YMCAs around the world. Finally, landing in South Florida and Highland Beach is definitely a highlight.
Q. How did you choose to make your home in Highland Beach?
A. When we knew we were moving from New Jersey to Florida, I asked my wife to rent a place that had beach or ocean in the address while we searched for a permanent residence. She overachieved when she found a rental in Highland Beach at the Boca Highland Beach Club and Marina on Ocean Boulevard. After living there for a year we loved it so much we bought the place.
Q. What is your favorite part about living in Highland Beach?
A. We love living in a small town with views and access to the ocean and Intracoastal and hiking and biking on A1A.
Q. What’s your biggest challenge as CEO of the YMCA in South Palm Beach?
A. There are numerous challenges in navigating a large community service organization through a dicey economy. Perhaps one of the greatest challenges is to get people to fully understand the significant benefits and impact the YMCA provides to thousands of individuals in the communities we serve and to consider the Y as a place to belong, volunteer and contribute.
Q. If someone made a movie of your life, who would you like to play you and why?
A. I loved Robert Redford in Jeremiah Johnson and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. I think I can relate to the fun and adventure depicted in his early career and his evolution as a film producer and director as well as his work with the Sundance Festival.
Q. What music do you listen to when you need inspiration? When you want to relax?
A. I love to listen to Italian opera singers Pavarotti, and Bocelli, and I enjoy the uplifting songs of Josh Groban. For fun and relaxation, I listen to Latin and Caribbean artists such as Gloria Estefan, Marc Anthony, Bob Marley and Jimmy Buffett.
Q. What do people not know about you that you wish they would?
A. I can speak poorly in Hebrew, Arabic and Spanish.
Q. Have you had mentors in your life? Individuals who have inspired your life decisions?
A. My father was an educator and school superintendent and my grandfathers were both clergymen and they were all terrific role models. My first boss in the YMCA was not only my supervisor but a great teacher and mentor.
Q. Who or what makes you laugh?
A. I get a kick out of so many of the Saturday Night Live cast members who have gone on to film careers. Steve Martin, Chevy Chase, Eddie Murphy and others provide great entertainment. I’m also a fan of the Three Stooges, but I always preferred Curly to Shemp.