At the Greater Joliet Area YMCA, our staff team’s passion and dedication help to make the Y experience second to none. Among the many devoted staff members at the Smith Family YMCA, located at 1350 S. Briggs Street in Joliet, you’ll find Donnie Chestnutt. Chestnutt joined the Y’s staff team last February as the Smith Family YMCA’s Executive Director.
Chestnutt first became acquainted with the Joliet YMCA as a junior in high school when the Y was located in downtown Joliet. Like many high school students her age, Chestnutt was looking for her first part-time job. And, with a little help from her school, Chestnutt was placed in the Y’s summer work program where she was primarily responsible for keeping the YMCA’s game room neat and occasionally helping to check-in Y members. That summer at the Y made an impact on her in more ways than one. She developed a passion for helping others in her community and an admiration for the Y’s mission.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Chestnutt: In 1974, my family moved from Laurel, Mississippi to Joliet, IL. I come from a very big family, and I am one of 16 children. When I came to the Joliet area, I attended Washington Junior High and I went on to graduate from Joliet Central High School.
After high school, I took to a job at JCPenney in the Louis Joliet Mall. After five years at JCPenney, I wanted a job with more suitable hours. I was able to find the perfect position at Lockport Township High School as an Attendant Secretary. After some time at Lockport Township High School, I took a job at First Midwest Bank. During my time at the bank, I took advantage of their benefits and returned to school at Joliet Junior College and later transferred to the University of St. Francis in Joliet. I earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration and management.
I am married to my husband, Ken, and we have two wonderful children, Nicole and Braxton.
What are you most passionate about?
Chestnutt: I enjoy watching people thrive. And, I am very passionate about connecting people to services that make an impact; which is why the Y is such a great fit for me.
What can we find you doing when you’re not busy at the Y?
Chestnutt: You can find me singing at church, dancing and playing pickleball—it’s so much fun! Besides that, I love to attend my son’s baseball games and spend time with friends. I also do volunteer work with several agencies in Joliet. I currently serve on the board of directors for the Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce, and the Will County Metropolitan Exposition and Auditorium Authority.
As the Executive Director, what plans do you have for the Smith Family YMCA?
Chestnutt: Our entire Y staff team has so much to offer. I look forward to introducing new opportunities at the Smith Family Y and enhancing the Y’s outstanding programs that are already well established throughout the community, including our Safety Around Water program, formally known as Project SOAR.
Since becoming a part of the Y’s staff team, what is your favorite Y memory?
Chestnutt: After teaching more than 65 local students from the Fairmont School District how to swim, I decided to take swim lessons myself. It was a wonderful experience and a testament that it’s never too late to learn something new.
In addition to conquering an important life skill, I am grateful that the Smith Family Y has been able to partner with outstanding community organizations in the last year, such as the Northern Illinois Food Bank, which is a non-profit that focuses on providing food to local residents in need.
If you have any questions for Donnie or just want to say ‘hi,’ be sure to stop by her office the next time you visit the Smith Family YMCA. Or, you can email her directly at [email protected].