As the year draws to an end, we are excited to highlight one of our most dedicated volunteer leaders. Nick Macris, who will wrap up his two-year term as chairman of the Greater Joliet Area YMCA Board of Directors this month, has been instrumental in helping the Y navigate through some of the most challenging times in our organization’s history.
“I have so much pride for what we do here. We set a high standard and we do things right,” Macris said. “That comes from hard working leadership, staff members, volunteers, donors and members. It really stands out when we compare our association to any other across the state or nation.”
Macris, a Joliet native, attended Joliet West High School and graduated from the University of Illinois with a degree in Architecture before going on active duty in the U.S. Military. During his time in the service, he obtained a Masters of Public Administration from Webster University and retired with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in 1995. Macris spent 20 years working for ComEd and briefly worked with the University of St. Francis as Director of Off Campus Admissions.
Since his retirement, Macris said he has focused his attention toward community service, primarily as a result of the example set by his parents.
“My parents really set the stage and were the motivator for me to get involved in volunteerism. My dad did a lot of volunteer work with the Red Cross and the United States Naval Reserves. My mom was very involved with the Women’s Club of Joliet and the PTA. They set a great example for me to emulate,” he said.
Macris has worked with the Kiwanis Club of Joliet and joined the YMCA Board of Directors in 2012. Though he considered himself a Y rookie when his time on the board began, he realized that he had a Y story of his own after all.
“We brought my daughter, Maria, to the Y for swim lessons and she participated in many youth programs at the Y,” he said. “Like much of the community at that time, I thought of the Y as a ‘gym and swim,’ but I quickly learned that we are a non-profit that positively impacts the lives of countless families.”
His passion for the Y’s mission grew with each year and he eventually stepped in as chairman of the Board in January 2020. The COVD-19 pandemic put forth challenges almost immediately, but flexibility and ingenuity helped keep the leadership team engaged.
“I really felt like it was important to build a sense of team, even in a virtual world,” Marcris said. “One of the things we did was to introduce every virtual board meeting with a celebration of success. We wanted to ensure we highlighted all the positive things that were going on professionally and personally for all the members. I also started to put out a virtual newsletter to ensure we were highlighting the important work our organization was doing.”
Macris said he was incredibly proud of staff efforts to organize virtual and outdoor programming during the Y’s three month closure.
“Despite the pandemic, despite the closure, despite all the challenges, we weathered the storm. We didn’t just survive, we thrived. It’s amazing what this organization has been through and we are coming out smarter, stronger, and brighter in a lot of ways,” he said.
Earlier this year, after former Greater Joliet Area YMCA President and CEO Jim Watts announced his retirement, Macris helped lead a search process that culminated in Katy Leclair, the Y’s former Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, being named as successor in the position.
“Jim did an amazing job for nine years and I wanted to emphasize maintaining the culture of excellence that exists throughout this association. After a nationwide search, the qualifications of our very own Katy Leclair exceeded that of all the highly qualified candidates. We were thrilled to promote her to CEO,” he said.
2021 also saw the YMCA establish new youth development programs throughout Valley View School District 365, while the Y’s Teen Achievers expanded to include seven area high schools.
“The impact that we have on children’s lives, students’ lives, and subsequently the lives of families, is very near and dear to my heart,” Macris said.
Macris emphasized that many youth development programs at the YMCA would not be possible without the support of charitable giving, and he was particularly inspired by the generosity shown by attendees at the YMCA Gala in October. The event netted more than $205,000 for the Mission Strong Fund, helping to ensure that nobody is turned away from the Y due to the ability to pay.
“It was an amazing success. Those who donated demonstrated how much they had a connection to us and what our mission is,” he said.
Moving forward, Macris will maintain a position on the Board of Directors, and the Y is grateful for his continued support.
“The strength of the Y rests in the hearts and hands of the volunteers, staff, and donors who choose to serve. During his tenure as Board Chair, Nick Macris showed that when you lead with your heart, anything is possible,” said Y President and CEO Katy Leclair.
Macris said he looks forward to continued progress with the Morris Community YMCA’s Capital Campaign, as well as integrating new ideas with the culture of success that has helped the Y serve communities throughout Will County and Grundy County for nearly 100 years.
“The future of this Y is nothing but bright. It’s going to get better and stronger,” Macris said. “We’ve got a great group of people leading this organization. I’m thankful for the Y, and it’s been my honor to serve as Board Chair.”
On behalf of all of our members, volunteers, community partners, and the Y’s staff team, we thank Nick for his generosity, service, and leadership.