Out of season, Lil Bardon greets about 100 YMCA of South Collier members as they walk in to go to the gym, participate in organized activities, utilize clinical services, drop their children off at preschool or head for the ever-popular pool.
In season, that number of greetings increases three and four-fold, and Lil makes a point of trying to remember all their names—and even nicknames—the kids, the parents, the retirees, the staff, all of them.
“It’s a bit difficult now with the masks, though,” says Lil, eyes smiling from her own mask. She’s been one of the Y lobby stalwarts for the past 18 years.
Before that, she had a long career with the Social Service Administration, progressing through the ranks to managerial status.
Her tasks at the YMCA include not only welcoming members and visitors, but also promoting new memberships, highlighting available programs, and most importantly, trying to make everyone feel part of a unique family.
“I want people to want to be here,” says the former New Yorker who has traveled the world in her time, some of it on an oceangoing sailboat with her husband Ken.
“It’s about forming relationships with all sorts of people. People come here for a purpose,” she continued. “Some parents need pre-schooling for the children and they’re delighted when we have a slot.
“Some have just moved here and don’t know anybody, some are widows or widowers, and this is a sociable place. Some want to play tennis on our first-class courts. Some want to swim in our beautiful pool. Some people love that they can work out after traditional hours in our 24-hour cardio area. We’re about community, and all types of people with all types of interests feel we’re there for them. I think it works.”
“In Lil’s case, it sure does,” says CEO Cindy Love-Abounader. “Over the years, Lil has developed a nice relationship with our members. She is dedicated to the members to help them navigate the best programs for them.
“The Y is in the people business and the Y experience starts at the welcome desk. Lil is known for delivering quality customer service beginning from the time you walk in the door. She helps our constituents feel welcomed, safe, and have a sense of belonging with a strong connection to our community.”
Lil says she picked up the job through a mutual tennis-playing friend in the early days, and that ironically that same friend named Ann Homes—who had been away for some time—recently rejoined the Y.
“She came back on my 18th anniversary,” Lil said.
Lil believes that one other vital aspect of the Y is the community outreach programs for disadvantaged families and their kids.
“We don’t turn people away,” she remarked, “we believe the Y is a place where kids should be.”
For more on the Y’s wide variety of programs and activities for adults and children, visit marcoymca.org or call 239-394-9622. Follow on Twitter at ymcamarco, on Facebook at marcoymca, and on Instagram at ymcamarco.