As the year draws to an end, we are excited to highlight one of our most dedicated volunteer leaders in Guy Christensen, who will wrap up his two-year term as chairman of the Greater Joliet Area YMCA’s Board of Directors later this month.
“I can’t believe it’s already been two years,” Christensen said. “I have been blessed to work with a board of directors that I would consider at the top of any I’ve seen or been a part of. There are so many talented, dedicated people pulling in the same direction, working together to make sure we serve the community in the greatest way possible.”
Christensen, a Morris native, attended Morris Community High School and graduated with an engineering degree from the University of Illinois in 1972. He spent his entire 47-year professional career with Chamlin and Associates, serving as the company’s president for 20 years, and worked as a consulting engineer for several municipalities in Grundy County before retiring in 2019. He joined the Morris Community YMCA Advisory Council in 2013 and also serves as a co-chair for the Morris Y’s Capital Campaign Cabinet.
“I owe (Immediate Past Chair) Nick Macris a lot for any success that I have had. I watched what he did and he was nothing but a terrific mentor to me,” Christensen said. “It’s also been an honor to work alongside Greater Joliet Area YMCA President and CEO Katy Leclair and the entire staff team. We can’t do anything without our employees.”
Christensen’s term as board chair began as the Greater Joliet Area YMCA was emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic. His leadership has helped YMCA membership and programming recover, with exciting expansion now on the horizon in the form of the future Morris Hospital YMCA, which broke ground this past summer and is expected to open in early 2025.
“I would like to think the groundbreaking was the exclamation point on the fact that we were able to come out of COVID successfully,” he said. “We had to go a long way to get this project going and I think it sends a message to the community that ‘No matter what happens, we’re going to be fine.’ I’m so proud of the way it has come together.”
Christensen is also thankful for the support Morris Hospital & Healthcare Centers has provided the Y throughout the process.
“Morris Hospital is a perfect partner for us. Our missions align and we’re able to work together well. It’s close to my heart because back in 1997, I was chairman of the Morris Hospital board. To see these organizations come together and get to the point of a groundbreaking during my chairmanship is really a full circle moment,” he said.
But the impact of community health partnerships hasn’t been limited to Morris. In the summer of 2022, Edward-Elmhurst Health became the primary healthcare partner for the C.W. Avery Family YMCA.
“I want to give credit to Katy Leclair, C.W. Avery YMCA Executive Director Lisa Behounek, and the entire C.W. Avery Family YMCA staff team for coordinating the agreement with Edward-Elmhurst Health,” Christensen said. “It’s been gratifying to see that partnership blossom. They continue to expand their programming and services, and I know the events they put on are well attended. They do an incredible job of serving the community.”
Serving the needs of the community has also meant expanding youth development programs like Teen REACH at the Galowich Family YMCA. Teen REACH, which is made possible by a generous Department of Human Services grant from the State of Illinois, has provided free summer day camp for junior high school students in Joliet and the surrounding communities as well as free after school programming for students in Joliet School District 86 since 2022.
“Everybody that has worked on the Teen REACH program has done a great job and I’m really proud of what the staff has put together. I know that it’s helping kids make up for some things that might have been lost during COVID. First and foremost to bring them together with their friends and classmates, and we’re hoping to expand that program to more locations,” Christensen said.
Christensen’s term has also seen the Y expand its charitable footprint through the establishment of the Mission Strong Golf Classic in 2022, as well as the return of the YMCA Gala in 2023. Over the past two years, these events have combined to raise nearly $350,000 for the YMCA Mission Strong Fund.
“I knew from my relationship with Morris Country Club that a golf outing could be something that might work. Once again Katy and the staff came through to put that first event together and it went so well that we knew almost immediately that we would want to do it again,” Christensen said. “What has been amazing is seeing the Gala pick up right where it left off. It’s not easy to have a golf outing and a Gala in the same year like we did in 2023, but we have amazing sponsors and donors that want to help us. They know there is a need and that the Y is a good steward of charitable giving.”
Overall, Christensen says he has found the Y experience to be one of the most rewarding of his life and he looks forward to supporting the Greater Joliet Area YMCA as it nears 100 years of service across Will and Grundy counties.
“I came onto the Morris Advisory Council 10 years ago without having ever walked through the door of a YMCA. So to become a member of the board, become a vice-chair, and eventually become chair, was something I would have never expected. But ultimately every decision has been an easy one because my heart has gotten into the Y. I’ve enjoyed every minute of it and I would do it again in a heartbeat,” he said.
“We are truly humbled by Guy’s example of servant leadership and are incredibly grateful for his guidance these last two years,” Katy Leclair said. “His wisdom and dedication have helped the Y reach unimaginable goals, and we know he will continue to have a positive impact on the board as Immediate Past Chair.”
On behalf of all of our members, volunteers, community partners, and the Y’s staff team, we thank Guy for his generosity, service, and leadership.