New Monroe and Sky Valley YMCA executive director Craig Chambers knew he wanted to work in the city years before his hiring.

The former Stanwood-Camano YMCA senior director had his eye on the Monroe community, and in March he replaced Patsy Cudaback.

The site is close to his Lake Stevens home, he gets his motorcycle serviced in the city, and its members are passionate about their branch.

“I didn’t know what it was, but something felt right, right away in Monroe,” he said.

Chambers didn’t know, when he started working at a Seattle YMCA in youth camp and childcare at 18, it would turn into more than a summer job. He attended the University of Washington for football, and ended up with a sociology degree.

Then the Great Recession hit. Everyone was struggling to find work, Chambers said. People were doing what they could to pay the bills. He very quickly had to decide what he wanted to do beyond athletics.

Chambers worked as Marysville’s teen director for a while, and he was eventually hired as senior director in Stanwood. He now has more than a decade of experience at the nonprofit.

“I would have never guessed I would still be at the Y and making a career out of it,” he said.

Chambers said he has always wanted to help foster positive change in his community. That is a major reason he is excited to wake up every day and go to work. He knows his time is well spent, he said, and he isn’t just there making money.

“We are excited to have Craig join volunteers, members, and the dedicated Monroe/Sky Valley Y staff,” said Monroe and Sky Valley YMCA board chair Martha Dankers in a news release. “Craig’s energy and desire to build on community partnerships, as well as make Y programs more accessible for all, makes him a great fit for our community.”

Chambers manages daily operations, such as supervising staff and fiscal management, as well as financial and board development. His immediate goal is to start boosting membership in Monroe by as much as a few thousand more people. He hopes to meet that number in the next 1 1/2 years.

He said he has one message he wants to communicate to the community.

“If you want to be a part of what we do here, we can make that happen,” he said. 

There are six different income-based payment plans for members, Chambers said.  He also wants to see more growth with the youth and aquatic programs. He said youth sports have been particularly popular lately in Monroe.

Chambers also said he wants to hear more from his staff and Y members about how the branch can excel. He said operations run smoothly overall, and Chambers hopes to build off that foundation and work to refine its strengths.

“What do we want to be great at?” he said. “What do we want to be known for?”

He wants to see what other platforms the YMCA can further facilitate health and wellness in the community. Chambers plans to partner with local school districts more often and raise awareness and access to the nonprofit through education.

In general, Chambers plans to work closely with and support other community organizations. He aims to use their input to find out how more services can be offered. He also wants to make sure services aren’t being duplicated, so more members’ needs are met.

“I never want to hear people say, “The Y is great, but,’ ” he said.

Chambers other goals are to make sure a diverse group of people can access the YMCA. About one in every five Monroe residents are Hispanic or Latino, and he wants that spectrum of cultures reflected in his staff and membership.

Making everyone feel welcome is Chambers’ top priority, he said. He is excited to be working in a smaller community, where people often care more deeply about what is offered at their branch, and what they can offer in return, he said.

Chambers said he is in the position for the long haul. He feels it is important to always maintain something to strive for in a career, he said, but plans to retire with the YMCA.

“I’ll be here as long as they’ll have me.”