Even though Eileen MacNeil only assumed her new position as executive director of the Huntington Avenue YMCA on July 15, she already feels at home on the job.
“I’m just in my fourth week, and it’s going by really quickly,” MacNeil said. “I’m thrilled to be here and among a community that is passionate about healthy living and youth development. We have a fabulous team here at the Huntington Avenue facility, and I’m thrilled to be a part of it.”
MacNeil has joined the staff of what is the flagship branch of the YMCA of Greater Boston and the first ‘Y’ in the U.S., which was founded under President William Howard Taft, who, in 1912, laid the cornerstone for the building that is listed on both the national and state Register of Historic Places. The Huntington Avenue facility underwent $30 million in renovations four years ago, and now features a fitness area, locker rooms, handball courts, basketball gym, class rooms, a sauna and steam room, and an indoor swimming pool, which MacNeil described as “pristine.”
“We’re in a position to be the cornerstone of social change in Greater Boston…and we have the ability and responsibility to improve our programming to help out our neighbors,” MacNeil said. “One goal here to recruit, attract and retain highly competent individuals who are engaged in the wise mission and values of the Y.”
Before coming to the Y, MacNeil served for seven years as executive director of the Paraclete Center in South Boston – a nonprofit she said “serves a very vulnerable population of youth,” where she oversaw educational, culinary, mentoring, summer learning and Afterschool programming.
Besides STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics), Paraclete Afterschool Program offerings include supplemental English language and math classes for fourth- through six-graders; Weekly Elective Enrichment Classes, such as robotics and computer science, human anatomy, Spanish, arts and dance, storytelling, philosophy and ethics, psychology and Lego engineering; and Expressive Art Sessions” – individual and group instruction in music, movement and studio art.
Prior to Paraclete, MacNeil, who holds degrees in international service and international economics from American University in Washington, D.C., served as a senior manager at Deloitte, a Boston business-management consulting firm. In this role, her focus was handling clients’ data breaches and helping them establish data security.
“One of the things I’ve learned through management consulting and working with nonprofits is that people drive growth and change,” MacNeil said.
James Morton, president and CEO of YMCA of Greater Boston, stated in a press release: “The YMCA of Greater Boston prides itself on attracting top talent to guide the organization in creating a community of caring people to improve health and empower youth and families. Eileen’s experience managing nonprofits and organic connection to the City of Boston will surely make a positive impact on individuals and families in the area.”
A native of New Rochelle, N.Y., MacNeil has called South Boston home since 2003, and in 2009, she and other members of the 350-member-plus nonprofit MOMS Club of South Boston helped implement “Southie Family Fun Day,” a free annual outdoor community event.
While MacNeil has stepped back from her involvement in this event in recent years, she was on hand for the 10th annual outing on June 1, which featured the Magic of Bonaparte, the Tow Jam Puppet Band and Touch-a-Truck, among other attractions, and drew an estimated crowd of 3,000 to Marine Park.
“It’s an example of how in an urban center, it’s important to build connections and bring neighbors together,” MacNeil said of the continuing success of “Southie Family Fun Day.”
Meanwhile, MacNeil is the mother of two children currently attending Boston Public Schools, both of whom are already regular fixtures at the Huntington Avenue YMCA: Her daughter takes part in the Aquatic Warrior Training – a program for aspiring lifeguards and swim instructors – while her son also enjoys the pool, as well the Y’s myriad other recreational offerings.
“We are kind of an amazing community gathering place…where all are welcome,” MacNeil said of the Huntington Avenue Y. “We have some of the best aquatic and fitness trainers in city. Join us today, and improve your own life while helping to improve someone else’s life.”