Ralph Christian worked for the Y for 29 years. He continues to serve the Y as an AYR volunteer.

Tell Us About Your YMCA Career

The amazing thing about the YMCA is the breadth of knowledge about serving communities and individuals that the Y provides to new, incoming staff. Where I grew up in Virginia I was not permitted to attend the YMCA. Things in Virginia were segregated including my local Y. But as a young man, when I came to New York City I learned much more about the YMCA including the many opportunities that were open to me as a new staff person.

I was hired by Dr. Paul Sharar (Director of Counseling & Testing) to do street work through the Harlem YMCA. We had thirty 15-passenger vans (“Youthmobiles”) that allowed us to reach out to local kids and bring them to YMCA programs in parks, camps and in the facilities.

Later in my Y career (in 1980), after serving 6 years as the CEO of the Mount Vernon New York YMCA, I left the Y for a period of time and worked as a manager of a Jazz Club called Sweet Basil, in Greenwich Village, NY. After a few years I returned to the Y, serving in both Oklahoma City and Indianapolis respectively. I returned to New York in 1995 as the Executive Director of Central Queens Branch of the YMCA of Greater New York. The YMCA is very nomadic; to advance your career often requires moving around. I worked for the Y a total of 29 years during a 35-year period.

How was the transition to retirement?

Honestly? At first I was somewhat lonely, thinking about what I’d do next. But as time passed, my wife and I went looking for a house to buy near the water on Long Island, and we found something that was reasonable so we took it. We have three granddaughters in Indianapolis, so we visit them when we can.

My wife has been a school teacher in NYC for nearly 50 years and loves it. That’s a commitment to youth. I’m actually very busy now in retirement, working hard on projects I don’t get paid for! I’m honored to be a Regional Vice President for AYR, the Association of YMCA Retirees. That’s just one of my projects.

tell us about the process of saving for retirement

Chuck Swineford and Bob Wilson were my mentors about a lot of things, including the importance of saving for my retirement. I do wish that I had found a way to save even more. However; when I compare notes with my friends who did not work for the Y, I find that the Y’s retirement program is competitive with any other.

If You Could Give One Piece Of Advice To Current YMCA Staff About Saving And Planning For Retirement, What Would It Be?

Don’t be sorry later on. The Fund is sending streams of info to you, so don’t say you weren’t encouraged to save for your retirement. And one more thing, when you retire, join AYR!