YMCA's Glass to retire after 36 years with organization

Matthew Lane • Jan 9, 2017 at 5:15 PM

KINGSPORT — Under Charlie Glass’ leadership, the Greater Kingsport Family YMCA has grown from a three-member staff in a small room at the Dixon Center to a large, multimillion-dollar operation with 17,000 members and a strong partnership with the Kingsport Aquatic Center.

Today, after 36 years with the organization, Glass has announced his retirement from the YMCA.

“There’s no big, burning reason. It just seems like the right time,” Glass told the Times-News last week. “Ever since I’ve been with the Y, I’ve said I can’t leave until I get this done, but you’re never going to finish everything that’s out there. At some time, you’ve got to jump off the conveyor belt.”

Glass said he doesn’t have any specific plans for retirement yet, but he does plan to stay in Kingsport and is interested in seeing what opportunities surface.

Glass’ YMCA career began 36 years ago and has included executive director roles in Kirksville, Missouri; Henderson, North Carolina; Richmond, Indiana; and Charlotte, North Carolina (Lake Norman Branch). Glass has served as the CEO/executive director of the Kingsport YMCA since August of 1994.

When Glass came to the Kingsport YMCA in 1994, the organization had a small, one-room office in the Dixon Center. When the YMCA left, the room became a custodial closet, and Glass and his staff moved into one of the Tudor houses on Shelby Street, offering only after school and day camp classes, along with some swimming lessons at Sullivan South High School.

All along, YMCA staff and the board of directors envisioned the organization having its own building. In 2005, the YMCA rented a two-story building at Franklin Square (behind the Chop House), offering exercise classes, a fitness center, youth activities and child care for members.

Still, the YMCA wanted its own facilities and for years pushed for this, raising funds behind the scenes and working to build its own building. Initially, the YMCA planned to build its new home behind the Kmart on Stone Drive (even purchasing the land), but an offer came up to co-locate with the city’s new aquatic center planned for the Meadowview area of town.

In 2013, the YMCA opened the doors to its new 35,000-square-foot facility. In less than two years time, due to enormous growth in membership, the YMCA expanded and renovated its facility. At the beginning of 2013, Glass said the YMCA had about 3,000 members. Today, the average membership is around 17,000.

On any given day, 1,000 people walk through the doors.

“I knew there would be a building. I just didn’t know that we’d have the opportunity to do what we were able to do,” Glass said. “The partnership with the city has been a real benefit to both of us and the community.”

Under Glass’ leadership, the Kingsport YMCA has grown from a three director staff team with after school programs to a $4 million operation, with an average membership of 17,000, 180 employees, 12 after school sites, two camp sites, special needs programming, and a strong partnership with the Kingsport Aquatic Center.

Glass will retire effective June 2. A search committee of three longtime volunteers and current/former board chairs has been appointed and will be leading the process of filling the CEO vacancy, with facilitation assistance by YMCA of the USA. The committee plans to release additional information by mid-January for anyone interested in applying.

“On behalf of the board, we greatly appreciate Charlie’s leadership and years of service at the Greater Kingsport YMCA. Because of his leadership, we have a wonderful facility and programs that support healthy living, youth development, and social responsibility in our community,” said YMCA Board Chair Dory Creech. “Charlie has built a strong foundation and left the Y well positioned to continue our path forward. He will be deeply missed, but we wish him the best as he starts a new chapter in his life.”