STAUNTON AUGUSTA FAMILY YMCA, 708 N. COALTER ST., STAUNTON, VA (540) 885-8089

HOME ABOUT STAFF NEWS CONTACT JOBS REGISTER

25 Years on North Coalter – Part Three

NOTE: This is the third installment of our four-part 25 Years on North Coalter series. You can find the first article here and the second article here.

There’s nothing spectacular about the couch’s appearance.

It’s navy blue with a maroon-colored abstract print in the material, and it’s smooth to the touch. A chair made of the exact same material is positioned directly across from it. As far as office furniture goes, it’s fairly ordinary.

Not something anyone would consider worthy of a second glance.

But it’s not the appearance that makes this particular couch so special.

It’s the function.

At the Staunton-Augusta Family YMCA, it’s known as “the couch.”

It belongs to associate executive director Rhonda Shinaberry, who has been at the YMCA for all 25 years on North Coalter Street, and at the facility for almost 15 years prior to that. She’ll celebrate her 40thyear in the building in December.

The North Coalter Street facility has seen at least four major renovations, all with top-notch architecture and construction.

But in one sense, it’s Shinaberry that holds the YMCA together.

YMCA aquatics director Beth Valentine has worked with Shinaberry for 13 years.

“She is the YMCA’s rock,” Valentine said. “She is what holds the place together. Her door is always open not just for work-related stuff but for personal things. I have spent many hours on her couch just needing to talk to my work mom. That’s what she is. She is my work mom. Her love for the employees is so overwhelming.

“I first met Rhonda in 1996. I still remember her little office to the side of the front desk before remodeling. When I think of the Y, she has always been one of the biggest parts. She has helped me with changing so many of my employees’ lives, if it was just helping give them grace or helping provide things for their family. I love and adore her.”

RULES ARE RULES

Shinaberry loved her job at Smith’s Transfer. She just loved her fiancé more.

Smith’s Transfer had a long-standing policy about spouses. With she and her soon-to-be-husband Eddie both working for the company, one would have to resign.

However, instead of letting her go completely, Jake Smith found a creative way to reassign her to a different business venture.

“I was unemployed for about three days,” Shinaberry said, laughing. “Mr. Smith called and said, ‘I know about your situation.’ We talked about it, and he asked what I was thinking since (my fiancé) Eddie took the job. That conversation led to a phone call the next night, and he said, ‘I’m building a sports facility for my daughter Terri, and it’s going to have three tennis courts and three racquetball courts. I need someone to come to work temporarily to help sell memberships and get things up and going.’”

That project, of course, was the Staunton Racquet Club on North Coalter Street.

And “temporarily” has turned into almost 40 years.

The past four decades include the North Coalter Street facility transitioning into a YMCA, and three different YMCA executive directors.

The one common thread has always been Shinaberry.

“Rhonda is the strength behind all of the reincarnations of that building,” said Joe McCue, who took over The Staunton Racquet Club business before it sold to the YMCA. “Throughout the entire history, Rhonda has been there. And she’s the glue that had always held that process together. She did it for me. She did it for Mr. Smith, and she’s continued to do it. I can’t say enough about how important she is to its success.”

THE GLUE

In part one of the four-part 25 Years on North Coalter series, we detailed how the YMCA went from no facility in the late 1980s and early 1990s to a two-facility YMCA on June 1, 1995.

As to why it worked, those involved with the merger of the Staunton-Augusta Family YMCA, The Staunton Racquet Club and the Staunton Athletic Club all give the same two-word answer.

Rhonda Shinaberry.

“I don’t think we would have survived without Rhonda,” YMCA board of directors member Dan Bonner said. “She understood what we were trying to do, but she also understood what The (Staunton) Racquet Club had done before. She knew the members, and I think she was really good in smoothing over some rough patches.”

Shinaberry had no experience with the YMCA prior to the Y’s acquisition of the Staunton Racquet Club. And she had always worked in the for-profit world. McCue had told her that the Staunton Racquet Club’s full-time staff would have the option to stay on, and immediately Shinaberry took to making the best of the situation.

“I knew there was going to be controversy, but I felt like I had enough of a relationship with the members in the past, and Joe was so great about explaining things to me. I felt like I could explain things to the members. I do feel like I helped with that. If someone said, ‘Oh my gosh, not the Y!’ I could say, ‘Hey, let’s give this a chance.’”

And that smoothing out of the rough spots proved vital.

“Rhonda is a huge part of the success in the cooperation in the facility that was and the YMCA that came,” said Mary Ann Plogger, executive director of the YMCA during the Staunton Racquet Club acquisition. “She is the brains behind the day-to-day. I don’t know if the facilities would have meshed together if someone like her hadn’t been there. Her arms were opened. She embraced us. She’s just awesome. I can’t say enough about her.”

THE BRAINS OF THE OPERATION

As the YMCA continued to grow, so did Shinaberry’s importance to the mission.

During Morris Peltz’s tenure as Staunton-Augusta Family YMCA CEO from 1999 to 2014, he spent a great deal of time outside of the YMCA building relationships, networking and fundraising.

Peltz never had to worry when he stepped away from North Coalter Street, because he knew the facility was in Shinaberry’s capable hands.

“Because Rhonda was such a facility-oriented person and so able to manage the facility, I spent a lot of time out in the community,” Peltz said. “That’s because Rhonda was so strong in terms of her leadership and ability to manage the facility. I had the vision of where we were going to go, but Rhonda had the brains to manage it once we did.”

Josh Cole, currently the YMCA executive director, expressed a similar sentiment.

“She’s the neural network of the Y,” Cole said. “She is the receiver of information, and she is the brain. She gets the information and reacts. How often do staff take up residence on her couch? And it’s all levels of staff, and it’s all members. Her couch is the neural network. She’s got a billion skills.”

On the eve of the YMCA’s 25thanniversary on North Coalter Street, Shinaberry remains just as vital to the YMCA’s success.

“Rhonda is the heart of the Y,” said YMCA membership director Candace Martin, who has worked with Shinaberry at the YMCA since 2001. “She is the person who keeps the boat afloat.  She sees the big picture on how one decision effects everyone from the members to the part-time staff to the full-time staff.

“She knows the names of almost all of our members, especially the long-term ones. She remembers details and genuinely cares for each and every one of us. She is the mom of the organization.”

After nearly 20 years, Martin views Shinaberry as much more than a boss.

“She is not only a great boss but she is a great friend, too,” Martin said. “We all love her and we have all become better people because we have known her!”

“A FEW OF MY FAVORITE THINGS”

Heather Berry is so passionate about fundraising for the YMCA’s cause that she’s often asked to train other fundraisers.

Berry tells of a time when Shinaberry told a person seeking membership that their financial aid had been approved right in the middle of the holidays.

The good news saved the joining member a significant amount of money during the holidays, when money is always already tight.

There were tears from the new member.

And they were tears from Berry.

Shinaberry’s transition from the Staunton Racquet Club to the YMCA meant entering the non-profit world for the first time in her career. Moments like the one shared by Berry are what make the job rewarding for her.

The other thing that’s made it so rewarding is the relationships.

“I love seeing employees through the years who have used the YMCA as a stepping stone,” Shinaberry said. “I think of high schoolers who have worked the front desk, or have been lifeguards, or the folks who worked day camp or anywhere in the building. I love to look and see what they have become. For many of them, we were their first jobs. Now you see them with their kids coming in the building. That just does my heart good.”

Shinaberry initially accepted the position under the pretense that it would be temporary. In an ironic twist, her presence has been the most consistent thing about North Coalter Street for the past four decades.

“I have been so fortunate my whole life and my whole career,” Shinaberry said. “It’s just kind of kept rolling and gotten better and better and better.”

NOTE: In the fourth installment of our four-part 25 Years on North Coalter series, we’ll examine the most recent history of the YMCA as former YMCA executive director Morris Peltz passed the leadership torch to current executive director Josh Cole.

© Staunton Augusta YMCA | Site design by Augusta Free Press LLC