Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Minnesota President/CEO Mary Swingle received the 2021 Vision & Spirit Award at Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s virtual Midwest Region Celebration on October 19, 2021. The Vision & Spirit Award is given to a professional who has served in the Boys & Girls Club Movement less than five years and who has provided impetus for the advancement of the Movement.
Since day 1 of her tenure at the Boys & Girls Club in September 2018, Mary Swingle has faced daunting challenges that would cause many others to run in the other direction. But not Mary. She tackles these issues head on, and builds community partnerships to strengthen and sustain our organization’s ability to fulfill our mission.
Mary took on the role of President/CEO upon Mark Sakry’s retirement, who had been with the organization in some capacity for more than 35 years. Mary had a huge task set before her to build trust from the staff, the board, our donors and the community-at-large. She did that by meeting at least weekly with each of the staff teams, the board, our trustees, and our school district partners. She built bridges with the school districts by reaching out and scheduling annual superintendent summits, gathering each of the three districts we work with to tackle big issues and to help them realize that Boys & Girls Club is their most valuable partner to their students’ success.
In March 2020, when COVID-19 hit Minnesota and Gov. Walz closed schools, Mary was in constant conversation with our school districts, and we partnered with them to provide childcare to frontline workers the very next day. We opened a site in each of our three school districts to serve children. We launched a Grab & Go meal distribution program and distributed thousands of meals to kids per week through the summer of 2021. We were able to return to serving hot meals in our Clubs in September. We launched virtual Club programming immediately as well, with Zoom meetings and check-in phone calls, and we even built a Virtual Club, filled with videos, activities and challenges designed to keep kids busy and connected when they can’t come to the Club. We re-opened Club programs the summer of 2020 using CDC and MDH safety requirements. We worked closely with our school district partners throughout the 2020-21 school year to support youth and families throughout the many school scheduling changes. Our Clubs and school sites were open more for more programs than ever before – with after-school programs, hybrid learning programs and distance learning program days. So far this school year has been more normal, but our team is ready to take on whatever challenges may lie ahead. Under Mary’s leadership, we truly are doing whatever it takes to reach the youth who need us most in our community during COVID-19.
Mary has built relationships with our local health administrators to make sure that we are not only meeting safety requirements, but that we are on the cutting edge of those safety requirements. Our staff and kids were wearing masks before masks were mandated, in order to keep everyone safe and healthy. She consults with local health administrators for cleaning and sanitizing practices, as well as other COVID safety protocols.
Mary has also made a positive impact on the Boys & Girls Club Movement, outside of our organization. She is deeply involved with the Minnesota Alliance of Boys & Girls Clubs and has advocated for legislation supporting Boys & Girls Clubs on a state and federal level with legislators. She has worked hard to reinvigorate the Minnesota TPA with monthly virtual meetings for all members. Mary has also become active with the Greater Midwest Area Council, and our organization has agreed to host the 2022 GMAC conference.
Mary’s innovative CareerSTART workforce development program has encouraged partnerships with many businesses and industries in our community, which are stepping up to support our programs both financially and through volunteer and other program partnerships to sustain CareerSTART long-term to ensure our youth are prepared for their great futures. Even throughout COVID, our team has continued to grow the CareerSTART program by offering a Certified Nursing Assistant certification program, robotics, and a CEO (Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities) program for youth.
Under Mary’s leadership, our organizations has strengthened our partnership with United Way of Central Minnesota, and we are delivering United Way’s grant-funded programs under 21st Century Community Learning Centers. We provided Winter United and Summer United, in which Boys & Girls Club fights learning loss with programs that keep kids’ minds active when they are not in school.
Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Minnesota’s Board of Directors and staff team are so grateful for the leadership, innovation and passion for the mission that Mary Swingle has brought to our local Club. Please join us in congratulating Mary for receiving this most prestigious award from Boys & Girls Clubs of America. Thank you, Mary, for the many wonderful contributions you have made to build great futures for our youth!