GALION — After a 40-plus year career with the YMCA, Terry Gribble is retiring.
Gribble, the CEO of the Galion Community Center YMCA for the past 33 years, will officially conclude his tenure with the organization at the end of the month. The YMCA organized a day-long open house last Friday to allow local residents to stop by and wish him well.
Gribble and his family moved to Galion in 1988 after he was named to lead the local YMCA. Prior to that, he worked for the Hamilton-Fairfield YMCA in the greater Cincinnati area, serving as program director for five years and associate executive director for the final two years he was there before moving to Galion.
“It was time to continue my career and I applied here in August of 1988,” Gribble said. “They offered me the position and I started here October first of 1988.”
Gribble said Galion was the perfect fit for his family.
“We absolutely love it,” he said. “That’s why we’re here 33-plus years later. I had the opportunity to move several times to bigger YMCAs, bigger budget sizes. I actually accepted another job at another Y in the western part of Ohio, which was a YMCA that had two YMCAs in two different counties. I would’ve been the CEO over both of those. I was there just a short time and decided I didn’t really want to do that. Galion hadn’t filled my position, so I came back.
“After that, I didn’t entertain any other opportunities to move because we like it here. Our kids got great educations here. The whole family value, quality of life in Galion is really second to none. We could’ve relocated so many times, but we just wanted to stay here.”
Gribble and his wife, Leigh, have been married for 37 years. They have three children. Their oldest daughter teaches at Delaware City Schools. Their son is a firefighter for the City of Columbus. Their youngest daughter teaches for Galion City Schools.
Gribble noted the important role that YMCA plays in the local community.
“We promote health and wellness,” he said. “I coined the phrase ‘Fun, fitness, and fellowship’ a long time ago. We hope people have fun in here. We want them to improve their fitness and we want them to have fellowship. If you’re a regular person who comes here at 5 a.m. and you miss two or three days, you’ll receive two or three phone calls from people saying, ‘Hey, are you okay? I noticed you haven’t been here the last couple of days.’ So it really becomes an extension of your family. You’re in that network of people. To me, the fellowship aspect is as important as the fitness part of it.”
In addition to fitness classes, Gribble said the YMCA’s outreach has expanded to include non-fitness offerings for the community.
“We’ve done a lot,” he said. “Driver’s education, GED classes, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Cub Scouts — the whole gamut. We’re here to provide a service, a good outlet. I probably had 25 people in here (Friday) morning telling me they grew up here as a kid in the 60s or early 70s and where would they have been without the Y. They played basketball, they swam, and the Y did so much for them to keep them to keep them on the straight and narrow path, that they wouldn’t be where they are today if they didn’t have this building to come into years ago.”
Gribble said he leaves with many fond memories of local children and youth who have grown up with the organization during his time as CEO.
“Being here so long, I could rattle off so many kids who started as eight, nine, ten year olds in our swim classes and then at 15 1/2 became life guards and swim instructors and then worked for us in our summer day camp program or at Heise Park pool,” he said, reflecting on faces of the past. “And now they’re physician assistants, they’re doctors, they’re teachers, they’re librarians, they work for the city in one capacity or another. That’s been really one of the most rewarding things for me to see these kids grow up from a young age and go through all of our programs and see what they’re doing as grown adults and productive citizens of society.”
Seeing staff members grow and develop and move on to other positions has also been rewarding, Gribble said.
“I’ve had several staff people who started off in a program director role and then became CEOs at another YMCA in Ohio or different parts of the country,” he said. “They enjoyed their time here. They had good training here. When it was time for them to expand and spread their wings and become a CEO or director of ops someplace, they’ve done that.”
During his tenure as CEO of the Galion Community Center YMCA, the organization has grown significantly, Gribble said.
“When I came here in 1988, we were a $220,000 a year business,” he said. “Now, we’re a little over $1.3 million a year business. In those days, we were hoping to do $12,000 a month of income and now we do $110,000 a month of income. It’s not like you’re making all that money, it goes in program costs, salaries, etc. So we’ve evolved to a pretty good-sized operation. The Y was a little bit under 1,000 members when I got here and now we’re a little over 3,000 members. In a community of 10,000 or so people, give or take, to have that kind of market penetration is really good.”
He said the membership renewal rate is about 96%, which accounts for the steady enrollment figures over the years.
Replacing Gribble as the CEO of the Galion Community Center YMCA is Andee Wildenthaler, who is currently serving as the director of operations. She joined the organization in January of 2017 as the membership engagement specialist and was elevated to director of operations in June of 2019.
“When I announced my retirement in August, the national YMCA came in and met with the board of directors and the search committee, and they have a list of qualifications they want you to look at in the next CEO,” he explained. “Andee certainly met the qualifications of what they want and what their expectations are. They offered her the position and she accepted it and I think she’ll do an outstanding job.”
Wildenthaler will assume her new duties in January.
Gribble said he and his wife have no plans to move. He wants to remain active in his role as girls tennis coach at Galion High School and as a member of the Crawford County Board of Elections.