When Steve Tammaro came to Spokane in June 2012 to be the YMCA’s president and chief executive officer, he already had 40 years’ experience working with the organization.
“We do so much for so many people on a given day, serving various communities and answering their needs,” Tammaro said. “It’s why I stay with the YMCA.”
Tammaro’s first YMCA job was just out of high school as a part-time camp counselor at the neighborhood Y in Somerville, Mass., a suburb of Boston.
After he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism and marketing at Suffolk University in Boston in 1976, his first full-time job with the Y was in membership and marketing in the Newton, Mass., branch.
Before coming to Spokane, Tammaro was chief operating officer in Denver, and he wasn’t looking to move. But he felt that Spokane was the right opportunity for him because of the strong board of directors, the new facilities, the staff’s engagement with members and the community reception.
“In Spokane, I find that people come together to solve community problems,” he said. “Of all the places I have lived – Boston, Rochester, N.Y., St. Louis and Denver – this is the most collaborative community for the nonprofits.
“Despite whatever may be wrong here, there’s a sense of hope in this community that is energizing,” Tammaro said.
The YMCA in Spokane is the community’s oldest nonprofit, chartered in 1884, Tammaro said. The first YMCA in the U.S. was chartered in 1861 in Boston.
“We operate based on Christian principles of caring, honesty, respect and responsibility, four core values that evolved out of our Christian heritage,” he said.
“Our programs have evolved from being a Christian evangelical organization to an ecumenical organization that welcomes everybody. The Christian piece is our heritage,” Tammaro said.
“Over the years, the YMCA has become a fluid organization answering community needs,” he said. “Its evolution is driven by community need. It has built the infrastructure, staff and volunteer support to meet needs.”
Membership based on household income makes access to the YMCA’s three Spokane facilities – Central, North and Valley – accessible, he said.
“Through providing membership fees based on need, the YMCA Spokane gave $1.7 million in financial assistance last year,” Tammaro said.
The YMCA is looking to expand its work in the Inland Northwest.
“We want to expand our footprint and are looking to bring Y services where there are none, such as in Sandpoint, Airway Heights and Pullman. We are also looking to expand opportunities to bring our programs to groups.
“We have expertise, staff and infrastructure to offer as a service,” he added. “We are looking to expand services, not build buildings. We are looking at what programs are needed for youth, health and wellness.”