Keene Family YMCA

Keene Family YMCA is a VR New Hampshire Employment Leadership Award winner that employs people with disabilities.

The Keene Family YMCA has truly embraced inclusion as a pillar of its workplace culture. The community-strengthening nonprofit employs several people with disabilities and receives workforce development support from Monadnock Developmental Services (MDS), a VR New Hampshire partner.

“We feel that we’re a much richer workplace environment at YMCA because of the diversity we have in our workplace,” says Dan Smith, Keene Family YMCA CEO. He credits leadership and all the staff for creating a community and workplace environment that embraces everyone. “It does not matter if you are working the front desk or as the CEO,” he says.

Individuals with disabilities work in several roles at “the Y,” bringing their unique perspectives to the tasks at hand. All of these employees are held to the same standards and expectations, with no identifiers as to whether staff members have a disability or not. They all receive the same training, such as CPR certifications and online courses, and all skills and abilities are valued and appreciated.

“The individuals we support have been included in whatever events are offered to all the staff,” says Sheila Mahon, Director of the Monadnock Center for Successful Transitions at MDS. “They receive a free membership to the YMCA, participate in the staff meetings and have given feedback. There is such a great level of respect and dignity for each and every person that steps foot into the building.”

Mr. Smith recognizes the value that comes from offering job accommodations to employees with disabilities, if and when they are needed. “We do that to be able to get an employee who is skilled differently to be able to bring perspectives that perhaps aren’t in your work environment at the time,” he says. Karlton, a fellow employee at the Y, agrees. “Everybody has a way of dealing with certain things, and it makes you stronger and better when you are able to learn from that person,” he says.

For Mr. Smith and his team, it’s rewarding to be working together toward the common goal of inclusion. “Employing people of different abilities and diversity just makes the work environment richer,” he says. “It makes all of us happier.”

Learn more about the Keene Family YMCA’s experience employing people with disabilities.

Thank A Teacher

Commissioner Edelblut asking for #Thankateacher stories

Length: 30 seconds | Transcript: Thank A Teacher