Shae Wilson hugs every child she sees as she makes her way to the front office at the end of the day. As the Athens YMCA CEO, it is important that she knows all 100 children in the after school programs by name.
However, the Athens YMCA hasn’t just been a career for Shae Wilson. Over the past 15 years, she said it has helped her grow and become the woman she is today.
“I came into the Y at 19 with a pretty rough eating disorder. I was in counseling and I credit this place with saving my life. It gave me a purpose again,” Wilson said.
In 1999, Wilson started her career as a kindergarten basketball coach making $5 an hour. Throughout her years at the non-profit organization, Wilson held six positions before becoming the first female CEO of the Athens YMCA in 2013.
“I look back on the journey now of being blessed to stay and be raised by one company because it’s just not everybody’s story,” Wilson said.
For many, including Wilson, the Athens YMCA is not just an after school program or athletic center, it is a community— a community that Shae Wilson has given back to during her time as CEO.
Wilson has taken many strides to improve the Athens YMCA through community projects such as coat drives and cancer survivor programs.
“She is always finding new ways to keep the Y up to date and modern in order to keep up with the fast changing world of today,” said Gina Jackson, Athens YMCA Youth and Athletic Director. “The Y has become a healthy place for families, members and employees since Shae has taken the role of CEO.”
In 2007, Wilson showed her initiative to improve the Athens YMCA by combining the athletic and youth programs.
“By Shae bringing everyone together under one umbrella, she made the programs better. The staff was stronger and the culture of the entire youth department stood for something more,” Jackson said. “Meaning, it wasn’t about whose department was better, it was about being here for the kids and the community.”
However, being the CEO of the Athens YMCA isn’t without hardships.
Many YMCA’s get their funding from state or federal grants, but Athens is one of the few that does not, which makes funding hard, Wilson said.
“Anyone who supports the Y is just like me and you. A ton of youth employees donate just $5 out of their check, which is amazing. It’s very inspiring,” she said.
Employee and community dedication show how Wilson is able to encourage everyone, staff or not, to be the best version of themselves.
“Shae has impacted me with her amazing work ethic, and her caring for the YMCA community is infectious,” said Laura Osborne, Athens YMCA Finance Director. ”We all believe in her and what she is trying to do for the community and the Athens YMCA.”
When Wilson isn’t dedicating her time to the betterment of the organization, she enjoys spending time with her family, paddle boarding and playing with her baby pugs.
However, her dedication to the organization is far from over. Shae Wilson looks forward to continuing her work as CEO by extending reach to surrounding counties.
Wilson attributes her success and influence back to way the Athens Y community has helped her grow.
“I went many years not believing in anything, so to come around has been a big deal for me,” Wilson said. “There is no way that I would be sitting in this seat if God wasn’t driving.”