YMCA director wants to learn local needs

ERIC WALKER/The Mayfield Messenger

Executive Director Shawn Thompson, shown inside the Mayfield Graves County YMCA's excercise area, is seeking input on needs in the local communities that the organization could potentially address.

Shawn Thompson started his job as executive director of the Mayfield Graves County YMCA 11 months ago, but a portion of that time was spent with his nose to the grindstone.

"No one knew who I was," he said recently. "They just saw me get here at 6 a.m. and leave at 8 p.m. for about two months straight."

He eventually began moving out and about in the community to introduce himself. His goal is to do the same to re-introduce the Y.

"Going into year two, that's going to be my biggest goal is to get the Y's name out there and let people know about us," Thompson explained. "I want Paducah to know. We have people from Paducah, Murray, Martin, Tennessee, Benton. We have people from all over come and use our facilities."

Thompson is a native of Murray, which has not had an active YMCA program for nearly 15 years. So he is also getting input on the needs of the community and how the Mayfield Graves County YMCA can address them.

"The biggest thing is I don't know what the community needs," he said. "Are there programs we can offer?"

Thompson, who had previously worked in Denver before moving back to west Kentucky, said he has started talking to community leaders and wants to work his way into the school districts, as well, to hear from people who know the area and see the needs.

"That's the key to figuring out what's needed here," he said.

Thompson said he has heard from people interested in an inside basketball court and gym, which the local YMCA does not have.

"We're the only YMCA in Kentucky and West Virginia without a basketball gym," he said. "I get people who call and ask, 'What time does your gym close?' and I'd say we don't have a basketball gym. They're reaction is, 'A YMCA doesn't have a basketball gym?' That's what I'd really want here."

He said they have examined the matter and admitted it would be costly. "But with the right planning and getting the right community members involved, it could happen."

Thompson said an attribute he wants to get across to YMCA members and the community, at large, is that he is a hands-on worker who is interested in solutions.

"I don't need people to fix things. That's something when I was working for different people, I respected those bosses a little bit more when I saw them doing the work," he said. "When I got here, I wanted them to know I may be the CEO, but I'm going to work just as hard and do whatever needs to be done.

"I wanted people to see that," Thompson added. "It's kind of a respect thing, since they know I'll do it."

Eric Walker is the sports editor for The Mayfield Messenger. He has also worked as a staff writer for the Messenger, editor for the Murray Ledger & Times, and in public relations. He is married with two sons.