‘5 Questions With’ Tim Hilk, President and CEO of YMCA of Greater Cleveland

Blog Post

1. You have been head of the YMCA of Greater Cleveland for five years, since coming from Youngstown.  What have you learned about Northeast Ohio that you didn’t know and surprised you since you got here?

Since I became the CEO of the YMCA of Greater Cleveland in 2016, I have been pleasantly surprised at both the welcoming spirit and the benevolence of Northeast Ohioans. People here generally want to help and support organizations serving the community. Probably the biggest surprise was the scope of historic benevolence. Not just from the organizations with tremendous reach like the Cleveland Foundation, but individuals that have left a gift legacy that perpetuates many organizational missions here in Cleveland.

2. What are the greatest challenges in the Y reaching its strategic objectives among the various stakeholders around the region?

I have worked for nearly 40 years for the YMCA and have come to believe that although the Y is a very recognizable brand, what we do is not well understood. The Y is a cradle-to-grave organization that serves so many people in so many ways. For the Y to successfully expand our ability to serve, we need to do a better job in telling our story.

3. Y-Haven has been an enormously successful program in helping men struggling with addiction. What do you think Y-Haven does that has helped it be so successful in the substance abuse fight?

Y-Haven, like the Y, embraces the individual. We aren’t just there to provide treatment but to inspire a different way of living. I am impressed every day with the great people that serve the community by working at Y-Haven. They have all the right attributes that transform men and now women, from the depths of despair of homelessness and addiction to a world where a person has a chance to dream and achieve.  

4. Has the pandemic helped you learn anything about whether the Y has to take on new or different roles in the communities it serves as external circumstances change?

Of course, we have thought about this a great deal - especially about making the Y more accessible to all in our community. Glaring issues of mental health, substance abuse, social isolation, and loneliness have inspired us to expand our services, look at removing barriers to accessing the Y, and seek community funding to expand programming. Look for the Y to emphasize the mental and spiritual development of each individual we serve even more.

5. If you had a wish list for NE Ohio as to how it could improve, what would be some of the items on that wish list?

Let’s truly remove access barriers for all to participate in our community. It is a disservice to all when unconscious bias plays a role in organizational decision-making. We are all responsible for calling out and removing barriers so that all living and working in our community can thrive.

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