Is Kindness a Luxury?

“Luxury goods are only consumed when we’ve got enough. You shouldn’t go shopping for a Birkin bag with your last dollar.

It’s easy to believe that kindness is like that. We need more reserves, perhaps, before we can expend some of what we’ve got in this generous way.

You’ve had a hard day, it’s raining out, the world is changing, your boss is mean to you, the checking account is overdrawn, you’re on deadline…

But… Does every need have to be filled, every emotion in place before we’re capable of being kind?

Do we have to have enough money, enough confidence about the future and enough of everything else we crave before we can find the space to offer someone else a hand?

It turns out that the opposite is true. That kindness is a foundation for the rest. That investing time and resources in extending ourselves shifts the rest of our needs in precisely the right direction, not only putting us closer to satisfying those other needs, but enjoying the journey as well.

Kindness rewards the giver as well.”

From Seth Godin, original post here:


The Bright Spots – December 16, 2016

Hello Countryside Tribemates!

How did it get to be December 16 so quickly?
It has been a year of highs and lows for most of us for a variety of reasons, but one simple fact remains: our administrative team is boundlessly proud of you and the work that you do within our building and out in the community.  Each of you is a Cause Driven Leader, the face of the Y, contributing to something bigger than yourself via the YMCA movement in the United States.
I want to say a HUGE thank you to LARA SURFUS and her staff for providing us with the MOST DELICIOUS staff luncheon I could have imagined!  I am slightly embarrassed at the amount of turkey and fruit cobbler that I was able to consume.  You will see me with all the other “New Years Resolutioners” in the CSC next month. Hope you had a Dickens of a Good Time!
It was wonderful to be able to share time in the new community space, and I will look forward to many more activities there in 2017!

Another huge thank you to everyone who participated in the door decorating contest! Congrats to Arts & Ed for winning the grand prize of a $50 gift card to Royce Cafe! The judges LOVED the “Christmas at Hogwarts” theme!  And yes, in the second photo below, those are floating candles that actually light up. 

I’ll be adding an album of photos to the Facebook Countryside Staff Page so that you can check out all the talent from this competition!
I’d also like to offer congratulations to everyone who won a prize for participating in our raffle and “Who Said It” activities!
The “Who Said It” winner was NATE BRESTELLI, who received a $20 Target Gift Card!
The winner of the “Guess How Many Chocolates in the Container” challenge was KATHY WINKLER from the North Entry membership desk!
We have another interesting year ahead, one where we are going to have to continue to show the community why the Countryside YMCA is a special place, grow our membership and make an impact in the community.  
Everyone here has a role in making that happen. 
In the words of Hugh McLeod of Gaping Void Art (who I realize I quote constantly), is this truth:

“We know that selling is about more than a great product, it’s about filling a greater need.

We know that marketing is about more than flashy ads, it’s about meaningful content.

We know that our clients and customers and patients and users are, first and foremost, people.

So, we have to know that our greatest strength lies in our community.

Building relationships with your people takes time, sure, but it’s worth every second — because those are the people who make sure your brand stays alive and relevant.”

2017 will certainly be a year for relationship building as we share our renovated areas with our existing and new members!  
One last Dickens quote before we close the week, one that is fitting as we head into 2017:
Hope everyone has a wonderful weekend.!

The Bright Spots – Weekly Roundup, January 29, 2016

Hello Mind/Body/Spirit Warriors!! 

Welp, we’ve just about made it through January 2016!  It’s been a pretty January-ish month, and if you’re anything like me you are pining for the sunshine and warm air of spring.

This is my first “New Years Resolutions” month as an employee of the Y, and it has been hard to miss the increase in humans and decrease in available parking spaces.  I want to thank all of you who continue to follow our instructions to park in the far out “employee” area and make the long cold trek across the windy pavement. 
Also a shout out to our welcome center/front desk/membership teams who have to field the extra questions, tours, paperwork that come with the New Year’s rush.  
It’s easy in these glum months to overlook the extra effort some folks are putting in, so I wanted to pass this on in the hopes you’ll express your appreciation when someone goes above and beyond:
Speaking of appreciation, I forgot to announce earlier this month that our Bright Spots Random Draw Winner was BECCA COLEMAN!! Congrats Becca!  I’ve attached copies of the awesome cards we received in December, and will be making another random draw next Monday.  Thanks to everyone who has participated in this Staff Recognition Program!   ROBIN TRAINER is on point with her shout outs!
Last week was the maiden voyage for our incredible gymnastics team in their new facility!  PEGGY HOFFMAN was able to forward me this awesome video capture of the event by Ron Alvey!  Peggy noted:
 “Our Gymnastics Meet was a “clean sweep” All levels took 1st place as a team at our our Home meet this weekend. Way to Go Team!!!! 
Thanks front desk, North entry desk and Lower level desk for welcoming all the team families and friends. They all loved our Y and our new gymnastics facility!
We are creeping towards a big few months in the renovation.  Things are going to get dirty and there’s going to be a lot of questions coming your way from members.  Please make sure to follow Mike’s updates and take a moment to digest the update flyers and signage that is being placed around the facility. Your ability to keep a positive attitude about these changes will be key with members, even when the messaging feels like:
We’re also heading into campaign season.  In case you missed it, Y National has released two excellent videos which can be seen here and here  We’ll talk more about the Campaign and what it does for the community in subsequent weeks.
Again, THANKS your part in making our Y a place where we are genuinely building better people!
Great job
Have a great weekend!

The Bright Spots – January 15, 2016

“We spend January 1 walking through our lives, 
room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, 
cracks to be patched.
Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to
walk through the rooms of our lives… 
not looking for flaws, but for potential.”
— Ellen Goodman
Two weeks late, but Happy New Year everyone!  I wanted to share this quote, because when I think of Countryside and our impact on hearts/minds/bodies/spirits there is indeed so much POTENTIAL here.  
The splash and ripple that we talk about in Changing Lives training is a very real illustration of potential… Splashes (outputs) become Ripples (outcomes) which move outward over time. Splashes cover a smaller area than ripples do. One activity or one action may involve a small number of people, but that just as a splash yields ever widening ripples, the benefits of the activity and its output spread beyond the initial group of participants to include other people. It is in the zone of the ripples that a project generates important social changes.
Countryside Y is a natural venue in which we can create important social change in Warren County.  Without thinking very hard, I was able to come up with a quick list of things we will accomplish together in 2016 via our Caring for Families Campaign and other departmental programs, and that’s just stuff that is on the radar…  who knows what other opportunities may crop up as we journey along…   We’ll do things like:
  • Provide PRESCHOOL AND SUMMER CAMP EXPERIENCES for children in need via outreach programming
  • Provide FINANCIAL SUPPORT to families needing assistance with program and membership fees
  • Teach children in our child care and local elementary schools HOW TO SWIM
  • SMILE at someone on a day when they really need it
  • Create HEALTHY BODIES through our exercise, sports and fitness programming and classes
  • Improve reading scores of under served youth in the King’s District through SWIM TO READ
  • Develop skills like dance, cooking, pottery and more in our new ARTS & EDUCATION programming area, which will be up and running soon
  • Offer a safe space for FAMILIES and CHILDREN to spend time together in a meaningful way
  • Select TWELVE STAFF CHAMPIONS from our awesome staff to receive recognition from their peers for outstanding work and demonstration of our mission
  • Grit our teeth and know that despite the inconvenience, the facility will be improved for the better via the renovation
  • Hold awesome events like the Countryside Gala in March, the Applefest Run and Mud-O-Ween in the fall
  • Support parents through parenting workshops, Blessed Respite and preteen overnights
  • Provide parents some much needed exercise and/or alone time, knowing their children are safe in our CHILD WATCH area
  • Work with Lebanon City Schools’s student athletes on SPEED AND AGILITY, as well as LIFEGUARD TRAINING for high school students
  • Coach and/or train a person who never thought they’d take the initiative to get back in shape
I could go on… but you get the idea.  With POTENTIAL (splash) comes IMPACT (ripple), and every person who works in this facility is a vital part of that impact.   
I’m pretty proud of that, and I hope you are too. 
SO…  if your attitude adjustment plan for 2016 consists the following:
improve your attitude
… I hope you’ll reconsider and think about the things you, as an awesome human being, can do to help us reach our potential this year.
We got this.
Have a great weekend!

The Bright Spots – Weekly Roundup, December 4, 2015

Hello friends!
Hope this finds everyone happy and healthy post-Thanksgiving and ready to dig in for the remainder of the holiday season!  Just in case you need a little help to let you know EXACTLY how much time you have left to shop before Christmas, the internet has you covered HERE: though in the end I think the message below is the best present ever. 
I was very pleased to see the following tweet with a lovely compliment regarding our engagement coach Jennifer Schultz!
Thanks to Nick Kneer for bringing that to my attention!
Also, a HUGE round of applause for our MARKETING and MEMBERSHIP teams, who engineered the Black Friday specials held last month and set a RECORD number of memberships on November 30th!  
We also had a TON of Bright Spots last month!  Congratulations to KARLA TOYE for winning our random draw! Karla gets a $25 gift card for being awesome!  Thanks to Laura Roble for participating by nominating Karla!  All November Bright Spots are attached to this email.
We will also soon be selecting our next four STAFF CHAMPION winners!  Have you nominated anyone this quarter?  Reminder:  Staff Champion is for PART- TIME staff who go above and beyond their normal duties! 
Nomination form is attached!
Get our your festive hats!
It’s almost time for our STAFF HOLIDAY BRUNCH & MUNCH!  Please save the date for December 17th between either the hours of 11-1 or 5-6!  We WILL be having a bake-off so please start thinking about what recipe you want to show off and become locally famous for!  More details will be forthcoming next week!
FullSizeRender (1)
 As you go about your business this weekend, don’t forget!
​See you next week!

The Bright Spots – Weekly Roundup, September 25, 2015

Hello Countryside Tribe!

We’re getting pretty far into the season of “Friday Night Lights,” aren’t we? Next week is October!  How did this happen?  Best of luck to all our fans, players, families and coaches in whatever games or activities you may be watching, playing in or attending this evening or over the weekend. 

I thought our early childhood education staff (and others) might appreciate the following “All About Me” form.


Also, don’t forget tomorrow is the Applefest Run!  Ruth and Anna from Health & Wellness, along with their fantastic volunteers,  have been working hard to prepare for this event!  The T-shirts also look snazzy!

Some of you may know that I am a former political science major from the University of Richmond so I follow elections and legislation pretty closely (it also happens to come in handy when you are in Human Resources). This year “The Donald” has certainly shaken things up, and regardless of whether you like him or not, you have to admit these “Trump as Disney Princess” cartoons are a complete riot.  Had to share:

donaldtrumpsnowwhite donaldtrumpjasmine donald-trump-as-your-favorite-disney-princesses-2-17234-1442957487-3_big donaldtrumpariel donaldpocahontas donaldmulan donald

On Tuesday of this week I was able to attend a board retreat where we continued to focus on the phrase of the fall, the “Bright Spots” that are happening here at Countryside.  We didn’t have to think too hard!  You guys give us material on a daily basis.  Don’t forget to share that by filling out a “Bright Spots” card!  Next week I will have a random draw on Wednesday for a $25 gift card winner.  If you are in a satellite location to Lebanon, I would still love for you to complete a card – I’ve stuck some in the boxes of our “satellite supervisors.”  Feel free to hand it to your boss,  or whomever may be coming by Lebanon next and ask the front desk gals to stick it in my mailbox.  You can also email me a photo of it and I will either recreate it for you or cut and paste it for posting.  Reminder that these are posted on the glass wall to the left of the main desk here at Lebanon.

Our “Changing Lives instructor” team has been working on some changes to our on-boarding presentation which will be incorporated next month.  How long has it been since you thought about the mission, vision and values we discuss in that program?  Days? Weeks?  Months?  In my internet perusals, I stumbled upon the following YMCA of Northwest North Carolina staff pledge, which reminded me of Changing Lives and which I thought was worth sharing:

“As a member of my YMCA’s staff team, I am a relationship builder. My role is to build relationships with and between members, volunteers, staff and the communities we serve.

Every day, I will: 

DRESS FOR SUCCESS – I will create a friendly experience for our members. I will always wear my name tag so that members can clearly identify who is available to help. I will lend members a hand – offer to get towels or magazines, hold the door, etc. A member should never feel like they are wasting my time. 

SMILE AND SAY HELLO – I will provide a warm welcome for our members. I will make eye contact, smile and say hello to everyone I see, including children and teens. 

MEET AND GREET – I will make a personal connection with our members. I will introduce myself to at least one new member every day. I will become the person they can feel comfortable talking to when they have a question or concern. Better yet, I will introduce members to each other. 

SEE IT, OWN IT – If I see it, I own it. I will take responsibility for correcting the problems I see, be they as small as a discarded towel or as large as a member complaint. 

GIVE THANKS – I will be grateful. Every member has chosen to spend part of their day with us. I will thank all our volunteers every time they lend a hand. I will take time to thank or offer a sincere compliment to another staff person each time I work.”

These are the simple steps we need to take on a daily basis to build better people. It’s not just the grand gestures, sometimes the little things make all the difference. It builds our culture.  As Eleanor Roosevelt put it… “We do not have to become heroes overnight. Just a step at a time, meeting each thing that comes up … discovering we have the strength to stare it down.”


​​Hope you all have a fantastic weekend, and I look forward to building better people with you again next week!

The Bright Spots – Weekly Roundup, September 18, 2015

Hello Countryside Family!
It’s Friday, it has been a beautiful week out, and I fully expect to see some of this later on today:
A BIG congrats to DEBRA PHILLIPS and ANITA PELLETIER for an EXCELLENT job with our Golf Outing this past Wednesday!  Many staff stepped up to help in this huge event at the Mason Golf Center. Mother Nature couldn’t have been more cooperative.  Thanks to all who helped with this fun day.
07-106 01-090 03-094 10-116 12-124 13-136 14-138
So you wanna be a lifeguard?  Well guess what!  Nate Brestelli has you covered.  He is offering a class that will get you certified: Dates and times of the class:
10/29 5-9p
10/30 5-10p
10/31 9-3p
11/5 5-9p
11/6 5-10p
11/7 9-3p
If you are between 16-99 years old, I urge you to pick up a black lifeguard folder from the front desk, and complete all online learning prior to coming to class.  You will look amazing in a red bathing suit.
Last but not least, I want to give some love to our staff over in LANDEN.  Since I started here in June, I’ve heard wonderful things about the Landen staff and had the occasion to attend one of their staff meetings to verify this for myself.   I was excited to hear from Erin Smith this week.  Erin is a fitness instructor at Landen who has the most amazing positive energy, and we are thrilled to have her on our staff! She had this to say about her co-workers:
“I LOVE my Y!  We are one big happy family here and I can’t imagine my life or my children’s lives without the Landen Y in it! Amy Hosier is the director in child watch and is absolutely AMAZING and truly loves what she does! When we first introduced her to my oldest and told her of his conditions, she assured me that they would take the best of care and would be willing to do anything they could to make him (and I) comfortable!  She has such a wonderful heart and truly loves every child that comes into our facility.
Next up, Hillary, Hillary is one of our trainers and also works at the front desk!  She greets EVERY member with a smile and truly believes in the Y and what we are all about!
Last, Bill…..what can I say about Bill Allen!  Other than he is AMAZING!  Bill has become like my big brother and the uncle that I always wanted for my boys!  He also LOVES this Y and the members and it truly shows! “
Lebanon, Landon, Little Miami, Clinton-Massie, Otterbein, Donovan Elementary, Louisa Wright… you are all important pieces of the puzzle that is our mission.
The truth is:
Hope everyone has a wonderful weekend!

The Bright Spots – Weekly Roundup, September 11, 2015

A somewhat muted greeting today Countryside family!

September 11th gets to me.  Our family happened to be living about 45 minutes west of New York City in 2001 and had numerous friends and neighbors who worked in the city.  Early that morning, my husband called me from Route 80 on his way into his office in Teterboro, on the New Jersey side of the Hudson.  He saw smoke in the distance and wanted to see if I could turn on the news to see what was going on.
I had just put my son on the bus to kindergarten and had a short window of time before I was due to take my daughter to her first day of preschool.  I turned the TV on about 10 minutes before the second plane hit.
The rest of that day was a blur.  No one knew whether it was safe or not to leave our kids at school.  Our neighbors trickled back home over the course of the afternoon, although several of them did not make it back for 24-48 hours afterwards.  My sister, who was working for the Red Cross in the Washington DC area was receiving urgent messages from national headquarters all day long.  It felt surreal.
That evening came the call from a family friend that his sister’s fiancee’, Chris Dincuff, who we had seen barely two weeks earlier, had been in the North Tower at the time it was hit.  And I guess I don’t have to tell you that Chris did not survive, and is now memorialized at the 9-11 museum with the thousands of others who lost their lives that day.
So every September 11, you may notice that I wear the ribbon I received at Chris’ funeral.  It is 14 years old, yellowing a bit after all this time, but I feel it is important to honor his memory.
       FullSizeRender (9)
I know mine is only one of millions of stories out there that happened on this day back in 2001.  And I think many of you would agree that we were once again reminded that life is short, nothing is guaranteed and we need to tell the ones around us that we love them.
Using this as a rather obvious segue, I want to mention a new employee recognition program that we are rolling out today, named after my series of cheesy Friday emails called “Bright Spots.”  As I have repeated many times, there are many Bright Spots here at Countryside, and we wanted you to have an opportunity to share them in a public place with a fun reward thrown in.  So today, you will notice some new cards and stickers on the glass divider next to the front desk.  The cards look like this:
FullSizeRender (8)
They are quick and easy to complete, and allow you to give your peers a shout out when they do something you believe is worth recognition.  It doesn’t have to be a huge project, it can be something little or something that you think is important for others to know.
When you’ve completed the cards, please leave them at the front desk.  I will review and post them, and at the end of each month will clear the board and have a random drawing for a $25 gift card to the selected name.
I was happy to place the first Bright Spot on the board yesterday.  Jenny Hathaway took the initiative to plan a “build your own salad” event in the Henkle last Wednesday.  As far as I’m concerned, there are never enough chances for staff to connect in a social fashion, so I appreciated her taking the initiative.  There may have been sweets in addition to salad, I confess!  There was also Debra Phillips with a selfie stick, which in and of itself was entertaining!
FullSizeRender (12) IMG_0263 IMG_0262 IMG_0258 (2) FullSizeRender (11)
So my wish for you this weekend is to hug the ones you love a little closer and TELL THEM what they mean to you.  As always, I am proud to be a part of the Y, to have such amazing employees as part of my work family.  You help me to answer all of the following questions with a resounding “YES!”
live love matter
Have a wonderful weekend,

Weekly Roundup – August 28, 2015

An itchy, poison ivy filled greeting from my office! Yes, I “weeded” the flower beds earlier this week. My attitude towards future gardening efforts currently looks like this:


Luckily, some great things have happened here during the last week that are worth sharing! 
Remember GRANT HOUSE? Grant is the Countryside Torpedo who qualified for US World Junior Championships?  Well guess what!! Grant’s team set a world junior record in the men’s 800-meter freestyle relay! GO TEAM USA AND CONGRATS TO GRANT!!  
Speaking of competition, the HEALTHY KIDS TRIATHLON was a HUGE success with 125 participants!  Huge thanks toHolly Colòn for organizing and to all the volunteers and participants!  Here are a few of the photos our own Nick Kneertook during the event! (see our Facebook page for the entire album)
StraightOuttaSomewhere (1)
(OK, I edited that one, sorry Nick – it made me chuckle! )
FullSizeRender (1) FullSizeRender (5) FullSizeRender (7) FullSizeRender (8) FullSizeRender (9) FullSizeRender (10) FullSizeRender (11) FullSizeRender (12)


Jim was nominated by Cathy Lyons, who wrote the following:

James Ludwick is a volunteer chaplain and Photography Camp/Class instructor.   Photography camp is particularly challenging because kids do not want to feel like they are in school, yet desire to learn about their cameras or smart phone and the programs that can modify these captures.

Creating a class that is fun for students with interesting things to photograph (such as huge wand bubbles, a nature trail scavenger hunt, glow in the dark balloons and group shots/collage for scrap booking), yet filled with “teachable moments” is a delicate balance.  For two years in a row, Jim has shared his equipment, his knowledge and his passion for using photography/music/videos to inspire, calm and bless others.  His loyalty, professionalism and kindness are unmatched, as is his resolve, willingness to listen before speaking and his joy in spreading God’s love (a prayer, an encouragement and a positive attitude). 

Jim also volunteers to photograph the Veterans’ Day Celebration and various functions at Countryside YMCA; even more than his wonderful photography, Jim approaches volunteering with open hands… and for this wherever he is used,he is a blessing to all those around him.”  

Thank you to Cathy for the nomination, and congrats Jim!

Today is your last day to submit volunteer of the month nominees, and don’t forget Staff Champion nominations either (I even shortened the forms for you!) I’m attaching copies for your use.  Please complete and email back to me or place a hard copy in my mailbox.

This bright spot message wouldn’t be complete without inclusion of one of my favorite Gaping Void Cartoons, so here! lifeamazing

Today, my life is a little itchier than normal, but it is still amazing.  I loved Hugh MacLeod’s message that accompanied this particular drawing:

“Even on a bad day, you can find life amazing if you really want to. We all know this.

Sure, sometimes you don’t. Sometimes it’s just easy to go all Shakespeare, calling it mere “sound and fury, signifying nothing”.

But that’s a choice. Often times, it’s the easy and lazy choice.

And that’s sad.

Life is short. So you owe it to yourself and loved ones to find as many amazing moments as possible, especially the ones of the loving variety.”

My amazing moments may revolve around cortisone cream for the next few days, but I will do my best to see the humor and make the most of it.  Hope you all can do the same and HAVE A GREAT WEEKEND.

🙂 Kirsten