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April is National Volunteer Month!

April is National Volunteer Month!

We want to extend our heartfelt gratitude to all of the amazing individuals who have dedicated their service to Blue Ridge over the years. Deepest thanks to our most loyal volunteers:

Marie & Frank Pardue
Dave/Kathy Shute
Paige Ryan
Paul/Nina Montgomery
Mary & Ralph Noble
Betty Davis
Louise Sims
Dan & Susan Harvey
Rosemary Smith
Rose Bennett
Richard/Nancy Weeks
Ann Weeks
Suzanne Mabie
Ginny/Mel Diehl
Jacqueline/Ed Webster
Jerry/Nancy Bullock
Joe/Sybil Brindley
Leslie/Richard Dennis

Also, special recognition goes to Jim Ingram and John Wolford who serve double-duty on our Board of Directors. And to countless others who have volunteered their time and talents, we salute you. YOU make our mission possible.

Volunteer Spotlight

Volunteers Claire and Ila await their next customer at the new coffee shop

Volunteers Claire and Ila await their next customer at the Eureka Cafe

Two of our most recent volunteers, Claire Miller and Ila Lewis, came to us from a suburb of Sacramento, California. Ila heard of Blue Ridge during her time volunteering at Colorado’s Estes Park YMCA in the fall of 2011 and recruited Claire as her travel companion.

Former coworkers (both now retired) the pair set out for a service-learning adventure in the Appalachian mountains. They scheduled an entire month to make their journey across the country, including two weeks at Blue Ridge!

What is your favorite part about Blue Ridge?
Claire: I’m a nature enthusiast so the peaceful setting of the Assembly is my idea of sublime
 
Name three words to summarize your time on the mountain:
Claire: 1) Welcoming 2) Busy 3) Worthwhile
 
What are your plans when you return home?
Ila: I plan to look into some more volunteer work in my community.

Ila and Claire served for 2 weeks and were able to work in nearly all departments, including the BRAND NEW coffee shop in Blue Ridge Center on its opening week.

We’re so grateful for their service and are looking forward to seeing our next batch of volunteers in just a few weeks!

To learn more about our volunteer program, contact Campus life Director olovejoy@yblueridge.org.

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With Valentine’s Day just around the corner we wanted to give a shout out to everyone out there who has romantic ties to the mountain. The Blue Ridge Marriage Roster is a book commemorating married couples who met at YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly. It originated as a gift from Billie Camp Younts in 1978, whose husband Charles R. Younts served at Blue Ridge Assembly for more than 40 years. To date, there are nearly 30 couples documented in the Roster.

YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly Marriage Roster

YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly Marriage Roster

  • Willis Duke Weatherford and Julia McRory met at a YWCA student conference at Blue Ridge in 1912. They were married in Rock Hill, South Carolina in 1914.
  • Geneva Kirby and Herbert Warner met at Blue Ridge in 1924. He was a Y exec receiving certification and she was on staff in the dining room. They married in Birmingham, Alabama on July 19, 1927.
  • Frieda Traweek (collegiate staff) and Finley Eversole (YMCA student delegate) met at Blue Ridge in 1931. They were married in Birmingham, Alabama on July 9, 1932.
  • Mabel Orr from Birmingham, Alabama and Martin England from Mars Hill, North Carolina met working as dining room staff in the summer of 1929. They were married in 1933.They went on to honeymoon with the American Baptist Mission in Burma and have 4 children.
  • Eileen Aull  and Howard Covington  met in the summer of 1935 as collegiate staff. Mr. Covington was a protege of Dr. Weatherford and went on to have a career as a YMCA Secretary.  Their daughter, Flossie Covington Hickland, went on to work at Blue Ridge in 1960,  their grandson James Hickland served in the mid- ’80s, and their great grandson will attend Leaders’ School this summer. “It is great to have such a family legacy”
  • Edna Erle Waters and Sam Marshall met the summer of 1940 as guests with the YMCA/YWCA conference. They were married in Tupelo, Mississippi on December 25,1941.
  • Mary Ann Henry and Hyman McCarty met as collegiate staff at Blue Ridge in the summer of 1942. They were married in Meadville, Pennsylvania on December 24, 1943. Mary Ann says, “Blue Ridge definitely has a tremendous place in our hearts!”
  • Emily Cottingham (YWCA student conferee) and Robert C. Stuart (store staff) met at Blue Ridge in the summer of 1940. They were married in Douglas, Georgia on August 10, 1946.
  • Marilyn Zibell and Olson Huff met summer of 1959 as collegiate staff. They were married in Decatur, Georgia in 1963. ”It was a great summer. Walked to Black Mountain under a full moon!”, Olson writes.
  • Kay Clement and Frank Edmond Hogan met at Blue Ridge in the summer of 1962. They were married in Greenville, South Carolina on August 8, 1964. They have 2 daughters.
  • Camilla Bolin (housekeeping ‘63-64, librarian ‘66) and J. Craig Weaver (collegiate staff ‘63-64, desk clerk ‘66). They were married on August 28, 1965.
  • Pat Goldthwaite (collegiate staff ‘63-65, senior staff ‘68) and Robert Wilhem (collegiate staff ‘62-64, senior staff ‘65-68). They were married in 1968.
  •  Rosemary Tenney and Judge McFerrin Smith met at Blue Ridge in 1967. She was renting North Carolina cottage and he was staying in Florida cabin. They were married in 1968.
  • Ann Hodge and Jerry Carl Hogan met at Blue Ridge in the summer of 1969. They were married at Lookout Mountain, Tennessee in 1970 and have one son.
  • Barbara Delores Steiner and Joseph Kenneth Mustoe met at Blue Ridge as staff in 1970. They were married in Morganton, North Carolina on July 25, 1971.
  • Carol Fassold and Larry Geiger met as Blue Ridge summer staff in 1972. They were married on June 15, 1974. The couple visited again on their honeymoon and again in 1977 when they served as dorm parents in Martha Washington Hall.
  • Kitti Ann Ruebenstahl (staff ‘73-76) and Kenneth Ray Kelly (staff ’73-’76) met at Blue Ridge in the summer of 1973. They were married at Warren Wilson Chapel in Swannanoa, North Carolina followed by a reception at Blue Ridge Center on October 9, 1976.
  • Cheryl Elrod (collegiate ’77, senior staff ’78-80) and Scott Washburn (collegiate ’68-75, senior staff ’77-79) met in the summer of 1979.  They were married on August 22, 1982 at Blue Ridge Assembly.
  • Deborah Meredith Dyer (collegiate ‘76-79, senior staff ‘80-83) and William Cameron Williams (collegiate ’80-81) met at Blue Ridge in the  summer of 1980. They were married on May 26, 1984.
  • Beth McGirt (collegiate staff member in ’84–85, senior staff ’86) and Tony Adams (collegiate  ’84): “We met at Blue Ridge the summer of 1984. Tony and I were both fresh out of high school — he hailed from the town of Jefferson and I came from Irmo. . It was pretty much love at first sight for both of us. I especially loved Tony’s outgoing personality and no one could sing like him. He starred in our staff production of Carousel and throughout the years that followed I could still hear him sing “If I Loved You “. We went our separate ways after that summer, but we still kept in touch over the years. And even though we both went on to live separate lives, 15 years after we first met — after both of us had gone through divorces in our first marriages –we tracked each other down and got married! That Blue Ridge Magic has always stayed with us and we just celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary (but we like to count 28 since that’s how long we’ve loved each other!).”
  • Dan Matthews (collegiate staff ’80, senior staff ’81-83, and ’85-86) met Lynn Rabon (collegiate staff ’85 , senior staff ’86,’87) during the summer of 1985. They were married in 1989 in Camden, SC  “after much convincing”, and settled there. They have two children, Roland and Meg.
  • Mary Catherine Saidla & Trevor Krister Person met at Blue Ridge in the summer of 1988, while  attending the YMCA Youth Conference on National Affairs.  They were married in Auburn, Alabama, in the summer of 1999.
  • Amy Cushnie and Brandon Vaughn met as conferees during Blue Ridge Leaders School in 1998! They were married in June of 2002 in Richmond, Virginia and have a 5 year old daughter, Emily Grace. They currently live in Midlothian, Virginia.
  • Domenick Risola and Keena Meyer met and worked together at Blue Ridge in the summer of 1992, and have been together ever since. “Twenty years and two kids later still going strong, and we still reminisce about our summer of love; climbing Chimney Top together, pillow fights while on housekeeping detail at Weatherford Hall, and first kisses at the bonfire at the end of summer…Our kids are tired of hearing how romantic the Blue Ridge mountains can be when you’re 18 and fall in love for the first time, and then get married and stay together…it does still happen, folks!”
  • Phillip and Helen Day met as Blue Ridge as staff in the summer of 1997. They were married December 30, 2004.
  • Rebecca Beltrame and Rene Moncivaez met as staff at Blue Ridge and were married in 2006.
  • Brent and Lillian Hadas met at Blue Ridge as staff in 2005. They were married in 2007 in Asheville, North Carolina. They have one daughter, Zoe, and are expecting another child this spring.
  • Travis Silver (Grounds Manager ’00-Present) and Michelle Miller (Dining Room Supervisor, ’09-‘11) were married in October 2010 in Marion, North Carolina. They have one son, Sean
  • Ryan Welsch (CONA  ’97 – Alabama delegation) and Lucie Swain (CONA ’04- Kentucky delegation) met in 2008 while volunteering at the 2008 Conference on National Affairs. Ryan proposed on the mountain 3 years later, and on June 16, 2012 they were married in nearby Asheville, NC.
  • Andrew McKinney (Program Coordinator ’08-Present) and Beth Snook (Event Planner, ’07-Present) married August 2012 in Asheville, North Carolina.
 

We want to know YOUR Blue Ridge love story! If you would like your names added to the YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly Marriage Roster, please write Melissa Logan, Development Director, at mblogan@ymcabra.org with your information or simply reply as a comment in this blog post! Please share your maiden names, how you met on the mountain, as well as the date and location of your wedding. If you were visiting the Assembly as a guest, please specify which conference you were a part of, and if you were part of our staff, which department you served in. We’d also enjoy hearing any updates on how you and your family are doing today!

Again, best wishes and congratulations to all of the sweethearts we have united. We hope that YMCA Blue Ridge will continue to touch lives and bring people together in faith and fellowship in the years to come. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Cupid3-246x300

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Summer of Love

The Blue Ridge family could not be more excited about the recent good news from some of our staff.  This summer we celebrated an engagement, a baby and a wedding!

Cupid’s arrow struck food service’s Kyle Winters and one of our international staff from Columbia, Gaby Chavez last summer. The couple kept in touch and after several visits to South America for Kyle and another summer spent at Blue Ridge for Gaby, Kyle proposed! He will move to Columbia to teach English next month.  Blessings of love, joy and good fortune to Kyle and Gaby as they begin a life together!

A few weeks before the proposal, Kyle and Gabby were voted “Most Likely to Be Married” by fellow summer staff!

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. – 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

Next, congratulations to Grounds Manager Travis Silver and wife Michelle as they welcomed a healthy baby boy to the world! We wish the Silvers all the best with the start of their new family. What a beautiful bundle of joy!

Congratulations to Travis and Michelle on the birth of their son, Sean.

Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him. – Psalm 127:3

Lastly, best wishes and congratulations to Program Coordinator Andrew McKinney and Event Coordinator Beth Snook on tieing the knot at the North Carolina Arboretum in August.  The couple recently returned from their honeymoon in Costa Rica, just in time to prepare for our busy fall season. We are so happy and excited for this lovely duo and wish them years of prosperity and happiness for the life ahead!

Andrew & Beth McKinney: August 18, 2012

May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth. – Proverbs 5:18-19

We want to know…What’s YOUR Blue Ridge love story? Did you meet or fall in love with your sweetheart on the mountain? Would you like your story to be preserved in the Blue Ridge archives for eternity? Then become a part of our Marriage Roster!

The Marriage Roster is a book commemorating all of the couples who met at Blue Ridge Assembly. So far 17 couples, from the 1920s to the 1980s, have been listed in the book, but we are confident there are more of you out there! If you would like your names added to the YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly Marriage Roster, please write Melissa Logan, Development Director, at mblogan@ymcabra.org with your information or simply reply as a comment in this blog post.

Share your love story with us: your maiden name, how you met on the mountain, as well as the date and location of your wedding. If you were visiting the Assembly as a guest, please specify which conference you were a part of, and if you were part of our staff, which department you served in. We’d also enjoy hearing any updates on how you and your family are doing today!

Again, best wishes and congratulations to all of the sweethearts we have united. We hope that YMCA Blue Ridge will continue to touch lives and bring people together in faith and fellowship in the years to come.

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Summer Fun!

Michelle Fontebasso

Hi everybody! I would like to introduce myself as the 2012-2013 Trainee/Intern! My name is Michelle Fontebasso. I am 24 years old, from São Paulo, Brazil.  I worked at the YMCA São Paulo for 7 years as a Journalist and recently I decided to explore a new YMCA.

My first contact here was last summer, when I spent 2 months as a volunteer. At that time I realized 2 months was not enough to discover and learn everything that this place and people could offer me and wanted to return.  I arrived again in this wonderful place in March, and for almost 3 months so far I am living my dream.

YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly will be my home for 18 months. Here I can have a lot of new experiences because I have the opportunity to work in different departments, such as Guest Service, Conference Service, Housekeeping and Programs. I am learning new skills every day, as well as improving my English. Everybody here is so hospitable and kind. I have made many good  friends that always take care of me.

I am from a big city- totally different from here.  There are so many buildings, intense traffic and a lot of people. So here in Black Mountain I can live a new life and enjoy the beautiful mountains with much peace and quiet.

I want to contribute to Blue Ridge by helping others understand my culture, and bringing my past experience as a journalist. This summer I have been given the opportunity to write the Ridgerunner Newsletter, a publication that goes out to Blue Ridge staff each week. You can read the issues on our website here!

I am so excited to see what this summer and the rest of the year brings. Here are some photos from our staff Orientation earlier this month:

Staff team-building in Lee Hall lobby

New friends!

Emergency procedures review in Heaton Hall

Staff climb on the Odyssey

 

Fun times on the Odyssey

 

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Calling all Blue Ridge Staff Alumni! It’s that time again….Time for walking in the cool streams, hiking to High Windy, making heritage crafts, rocking on Lee Hall porch…whatever it is that you love about Blue Ridge, we invite you to return home to the mountain.

On July 6-8, we will welcome staff alumni and their families to the mountain to reminisce and reconnect. The schedule includes a “Christmas in July” celebration, an exciting and educational Naturalist Program, a picnic by the lake, and more.  There will be plenty of planned activities with the group, but also lots of free time to explore free time on own or with your loved ones.  It is a wonderful opportunity for old staff to mingle with new staff, to share fond memories of your Blue Ridge summer, and to enjoy a relaxing weekend in the beautiful mountains of Western North Carolina. Register today!

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2011 Staff Alumni Reunion

Can’t join us this summer? Here are some other ways to be involved:

Stay connected with your fellow staffers on Facebook by joining our Group page, or by “Liking” YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly. You can also subscribe to the “Eureka! Blog” to stay up to date about the latest happenings on the mountain, news from current staff, or to read inspirational stories about the impact that Blue Ridge has.

Volunteer Your Time: Contact volunteer@ymcabra.org for information on the exciting year-round service opportunities around the mountain.

Recruit Summer Staff:  Through friends, family, internships, and other opportunities, we each found our way to Blue Ridge on different paths.  Today, you  can guide youth to the mountain by reaching out to those in your own lives that you know would benefit from the Blue Ridge summer experience.  Internships in Food Service, Event Planning, Hotel/Hospitality Management, Art Education, or Outdoor Education are just a few worth exploring as possibilities for great real-world experience and school credit.  If you know anyone that you feel would be a good fit, send them our way! For more information, visit the Blue Ridge Assembly website.

Bring a Group: Where do you belong in your community? Contact Blue Ridge today about bringing a group for a conference retreat, weekend getaway, or family reunion. We have a variety of accommodations including  hotel-style rooms, cabins and cottages, and new lodges to fit your groups needs.  There are also many recreational opportunities available through our Program Department.  Contact Danielle Tocaben at (828) 210-8457 or dtocaben@ymcabra.org for more information.

Donate! Alumni donations help in many ways. They help current summer staff by providing them with programming opportunities, a collegiate summer course, and a special gift each summer. In previous years the Alumni Group has presented ping pong tables, staff photo CDs, televisions, grills, rocking chairs and this year…a computer! Your contributions are going towards a bigger goal: creating memories, changing lives, and making Blue Ridge a  better place for those staff who return year after year. Donations can be mailed to: Blue Ridge Assembly Staff Alumni Association, 84 Blue Ridge Circle, Black Mountain, NC 28711

Thanks for to all those who have served in the past as alumni officers- helping to plan reunions, lead programs, create newsletters, and assisted with the Alumni Association in any other capacity. If you have any questions regarding registration, volunteering, or making a donation, please contact Alumni Association President, Juli Gerken (1995 Summer Staff) at juligerken@charter.net or Blue Ridge’s Staff Alumni at alumni@ymcabra.org

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Life-Lessons from AYP

Last week, Blue Ridge Assembly hosted the Association of YMCA Professionals, with over 180 YMCA staff and 8 vendors in attendance. The AYP is a professional membership organization supporting YMCA leaders across the country. Since 1871, they have strived to advance, inspire, and connect Y employees by providing the education and resources that enhance both personal and professional growth.

The AYP Regional Spring Conference is for Chapters 23 (North and South Carolina) and Chapter 26 (Tennessee). Of these three states, around 40 different YMCA branches were represented at this year’s conference .  The purpose of this conference was to bring Y staff together to recharge, reconnect, and be inspired. There were phenomenal keynote speakers, a variety of career development workshops, and countless networking opportunities throughout the three-day event. Through sing-a-longs, line dancing, fellowship and fun, we were offered many metaphors for both work and life.

In the opening welcome speech, Kurt Eckel, Blue Ridge CEO invited conferees to feel at home on the mountain. “We are YOUR conference center”, he reminded them. In fact, it is interesting to note that there would be no Blue Ridge Assembly if there was no YMCA! As Kurt shared, it was a group of Y professionals that saved Blue Ridge from bankruptcy and demise after the Depression and World War II.

“It’s a family reunion!”, he said. And that, it was. As a member of the Program and Marketing Departments here at Blue Ridge, this was my second year attending the conference. What an amazing experience! This year’s AYP theme: “Life’s A Dance,” from the famous country song of the 1990’s:

Life’s a dance you learn as you go
Sometimes you lead, sometimes you follow
Don’t worry about what you don’t know
Life’s a dance you learn as you go
  – John Michael Montgomery

I have heard this song a billion times, but never actually let the words sink in until recently. The theme gave me a whole new understanding of what it means to be a LEADER. There were several important life-lessons I took home with me from the AYP experience. Here are just a few:

1. Exceed expectations.

Patrick Henry, keynote speaker, singer-songwriter, and “motivational entertainer”, encouraged us to always go the extra mile, even when you think no one is looking. He urged us to turn our customers into fans by creating positive “tweet-worthy” experiences. And in real-life…it’s the little day-to-day interactions with one another that can make all the difference. Mr. Henry advises us to remember names and ask questions (25 to be exact :)).

We all know that creating personal, emotional connections with our guests and members can have a lasting impact. After all, it is this sense of hospitality that the YMCA, and Blue Ridge Assembly, has always been known for. But how we relate to our coworkers and staff is also equally important to our organization.

In his AYP Learning Lab, Michael DeVaul (Senior Vice President of Organizational Advancement of the Charlotte YMCA), discussed Emotional Intelligence— social qualities such as empathy, self management, leadership, adaptability, and confidence. “IQ gets you in the door but EQ keeps you there,” he reminded us. Therefor it is important for us to focus on going above and beyond, not only in our job duties, but also in establishing emotional connections with those we work with.

2. Be yourself.

“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”

1 Peter 4:10

During the workshop “Bring your Own Brand”, Michael DeVaul said most workplaces are in the midst of an “accultural revolution” and stressed the value of individuality. He encouraged us to be true to ourselves and to embrace our unique talents, skills and personal strengths. Patrick Henry agreed in his keynote, saying that, “You will be the same person 5 years from now with the exception of the these three factors: the books you read, the people you meet and the exercise you get.”

Devaul said that it is far easier and more efficient to focus on developing and building on our strengths rather than trying to “fix” our weaknesses. Instead, surround yourself with a diverse, well-rounded team of people- some that compensate for your weaknesses and others that compliment your strengths. Also, we should welcome and encourage feedback from our peers and higher-ups. Constructive criticism is a gift! These collaborations will drastically improve your performance and success in the workplace. DeVaul even suggests creating a personal mission statement to define your purpose and goals.

3.    Walk the Talk.

During the workshop “Becoming the Leader You Were Meant to Be” we were taught to lead by example. I was surprised to hear that most character attributes are not innate within us, but CHOICES we make every day.  As part of becoming a “TRP” (Totally Responsible Person), we need to be held accountable for everything we say and do, taking full responsibility for our attitudes, emotions, and behaviors. Simple consciousness, mindfulness and a bit of self control can go a long way!

In this workshop we were also taught to avoid the ever-toxic ‘victim mentality”. Instead, begin to view stressful situations as “O-FLAGS” – Opportunities for Learning and Growth.  We should strive to channel negative emotions in a healthy way by translating anger or frustration into action. And as part of “walking the talk”, these actions should exemplify the values that our organization stands for: CARING, HONESTY, RESPONSIBILITY, and RESPECT.

4. Give A Little.

“Give, and it will be given to you.”  Luke 6:38

At this year’s conference, there were several live and silent auctions to raise money for the AYP’s Emergency Assistance Fund, which helps Y staff in need. In just 3 days we were able to meet their fundraising goal of $12,000 dollars with a 100% give rate from members of AYP. It was so touching to see everyone come together, opening their hearts and their wallets for their fellow Y employees, many of them strangers.  It confirmed that the YMCA truly is a family and that the mission is universal.

Seeing this generosity and support first-hand made me think about giving in other ways- giving our time, giving our talents. And giving, in however way you can, promotes CHANGE. The most profound changes are slow and subtle…”a ripple, rather than a splash”. And this is what we do every day for the YMCA through healthy living, youth development, and social responsibility. Through our commitment to service, we strengthen families and communities. And over time we have an impact on the “bigger picture” and this positive change becomes more and more widespread.

Kevin Trapani, CEO of The Redwoods Group, the insurance provider for YMCA’s nationwide reiterated this fact. He discussed the overwhelming NEED for organizations like us because our mission can help combat the deeper, complex problems that communities are facing, including hunger, poverty, drug abuse, crime, and poor education. During the final keynote speaker of the conference, Jim Morgan, President/CEO of Krispy Kreme Donuts, even called the YMCA “the most important organization in world.” WOW!

5. Love what you do.

Jim Morgan also encouraged us to find a job we love. It is comforting to know that of the 180 people attending the conference, the majority (including myself) could say that they are truly passionate about their work. Jim encouraged us to apply the same enthusiasm and dedication to our lives outside of work, comparing it to his holistic business philosophy. For example, as part of Krispy Kreme’s benefit package, all employees are given mandatory “FFC days” in addition to paid vacation and holidays. On these special days off employees are required to do something meaningful – either to renew their (F)aith, spend time with (F)amily, or to volunteer in their (C)ommunity. And I realized it is these three simple values that give us purpose every day, both as individuals and as an organization.

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The AYP conference was the perfect combination of WORK and PLAY. Through sing-a-longs, line dancing, fellowship and fun, we were offered many metaphors for both work and life. (For a glimpse of just how much fun we had, check out this awesome video on YouTube!)

Once again, this conference served as a reminder of how fortunate I am to be a part of such an organization and has renewed my loyalty to the life-changing work that we do. I gained valuable insight and wisdom, made some great professional connections, and learned many new things that I can apply to my career with the YMCA. THANK YOU to everyone who helped to make the AYP conference possible!  I am already looking forward to next year. Like Patrick Henry, I now too believe that one good speech can change the world 🙂

For more information on the Association of YMCA Professionals, please visit their website:  www.ayponline.org

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Erin Ratliff
Program & Marketing Coordinator
eratliff@ymcabra.org

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It is hard to believe that the holiday season has nearly come and gone already. YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly has had one of the busiest Decembers on record, keeping our year-round staff on their toes and in high spirits! This month was full of excitement, merriment, retirements and engagements….

Blue Ridge staff at the 2011 Tree Trimming Party

On the week after Thanksgiving, Blue Ridge kicked off the Christmas season with our annual Tree-Trimming Party.  Staff and their families gathered in the Blue Ridge Center lobby for homemade baked goods, warm beverages, and fire-side fellowship. We decorated a majestic 13-foot Fraser fir, which was harvested locally and provides a visual reminder of the joyful holiday season and the remarkable beauty of the Assembly.

The collection of historic black and white Archive photos used to decorate the tree each year

Ed Colley takes the honor of topping the this year's tree

This years event was particularly special, as we were serenaded with live Christmas music from talented members of our Leadership team. We also received our first SNOW of the season, which provided the perfect festive backdrop to unite everyone in the holiday spirit!

Peggy, Owen, Kurt, Steve, and Richard sing Christmas carols in the lobby

Let it Snow! Lee Hall as seen from Blue Ridge Center, November 29, 2011

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After 21 years of service, Blue Ridge Assembly’s Maintenance Director, Ed Colley, recently announced his retirement. On December 1st we hosted Ed’s Retirement Celebration, paying tribute to his excellence of character, warm personality, outstanding work ethic, and legacy to Blue Ridge.  The evening brought together Ed’s family, Blue Ridge staff, and Board members and included a Reception in the BRC Lobby, followed by a delicious banquet dinner in the Dining Room.

Ed Colley with his son, daughter, and granddaughter at the Ed's Retirement Reception.

We are eternally grateful for Ed’s dedication to Blue Ridge, both personally and professionally.  He touched hundreds of  lives as he served his community, provided for his family, and managed the Assembly’s historic buildings, and 1,200 acre grounds. Congratulations and best wishes for a happy and healthy retirement, Ed!  You will be greatly missed! Thank you for all that you have done.

Blue Ridge CEO, Kurt Eckel, and Board President, Hollis Downs, present Ed Colley with restored window framing turn-of-the-century black and white photos of the Assembly.

We are pleased to announce Ed’s successor, Philip Day, will take over as Maintenance Director. Welcome aboard, Phil!

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ChristmasFest gathers for a holiday worship in the BRC Lobby

Earlier this month we also celebrated ChristmasFest, a longtime Blue Ridge tradition which was  revived for the first time this year in over a decade.  We were excited to welcome back an “active adult” group from the Jamerson Family YMCA in Lynchburg, VA for this years event. Guests enjoyed a 3 day program that embraced the childlike wonder of Christmas and included  crafts, fireside storytelling, caroling, and mealtime entertainment. The group was  also able to experience unique local attractions such as downtown Black Mountain, the Biltmore Estate Candlelight Christmas, and Grove Park Inn’s Gingerbread House display.  And it wouldn’t be Christmas without GIFTS! Each day they were surprised with handmade ornaments, stockings, jingle bells, and other seasonal treats.  What a fantastic way for our guests and staff to get in the holiday spirit!

Santa visits the Dining Room during ChristmasFest 2011

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Lastly…

This holiday season,  already a joyous time of year, was particularly exciting for two Blue Ridge staff members who became engaged this month! We would like to congratulate our own Event Planner, Beth Snook,  and Program Coordinator Andrew McKinney on their wonderful news and the announcement of a wedding next fall. We are so happy to be a part of their engagement and are looking forward to watching this beautiful young couple share a lifetime of love and happiness together.

Congratulations to Beth and Andrew from your Blue Ridge family!

Also check out engagement photos for another couple, Lucie and Ryan, who recently became engaged at Blue Ridge Assembly! It seems that LOVE is in the (mountain) air! 🙂

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Ho! Ho! Ho!

We would like to wish all of you a happy and healthy holiday season! Warmest thoughts and best wishes as you celebrate joy, peace and goodwill with friends and family. Thank you for a wonderful year. We are looking forward to sharing 2012 with you!


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