Ryan Buck chokes up when he talks about why he loves the YMCA.
Buck, who became executive director of the Sherwood Regional Family YMCA in April of this year, has worked full-time for the Y for about a decade. He had a part-time job at his local Y as a college undergrad, then became a personal trainer at a Minnesota chapter while preparing to head to graduate school.
During that time, he met Randy, an older man who came to the Y at night and tended to be antisocial.
"He tried to scare people off because he didn't feel good about himself," Buck said about Randy. "He was a brilliant man … but this loneliness he had was just eating him up. By just wearing him down with kindness, we became great friends."
Ten years later, Buck and Randy are still friends and email often. And Buck never made it to grad school — instead, he stuck with the YMCA.
"I showed him, there are people who care about you," Buck said, fighting back tears. "Sometimes people just need a friend, and I saw that the YMCA can be that for people. It fulfilled this life mission that I didn't even realize I had."
After working at the YMCA in Minnesota for about seven years, Buck and his family moved to Dallas, where he oversaw the wellness programs for the entire metro area. After a few years in Dallas, Buck decided to take the new position in Sherwood.
"I had missed the relationships you build when you're just in one spot," Buck said about his time in Dallas. "That was one of the drivers in looking for a role in one branch."
This month, the YMCA of Columbia-Willamette, which includes the Sherwood chapter, will celebrate its 150th anniversary. And the Sherwood Regional Family YMCA celebrated its 20th year in Sherwood last month, on Sept. 18.
When asked why the YMCA continues to be successful after so many decades, Buck answered that because the organization is a nonprofit, "We're not about making money. We're about impacting people's lives."
Buck added that the YMCA succeeds because it is able to adapt to the unique needs of the communities it serves.
"There's a very robust senior population in this community," he said as an example. "So the Sherwood YMCA offers more senior programming than any facility in the Pacific Northwest."
That tradition stretches back throughout the YMCA's history. The organization started as a hotel for immigrants on the East Coast, and has added kids' camps, resume writing classes, and a host of other services throughout the years.
Today, about 30 percent of Sherwood residents belong to the YMCA.
"The YMCA really steps in when it sees a need," Buck said. "It's not a business model — it's a relationship to the community."