Over the course of 2021, we will feature 100 Heroes who have been instrumental in our fight for the basic needs, education and financial stability of our neighbors for the past century. To learn more about how we are continuing to serve the Bluegrass in 2021, click here.
Today we are interviewing Drew Beckett, CEO of the Paris-Bourbon County YMCA, one of our partner agencies. He also serves on our Community Impact Task Force.
What is your role with the Paris-Bourbon County YMCA?
I am the CEO for the Paris-Bourbon County YMCA, which covers Bourbon, Harrison and Nicholas counties. We’ve recently expanded and are getting ready to open our Child Development Center in Cynthiana (Harrison county), so we will have a physical presence in all three counties.
What is your role with UWBG as a member of the Community Impact Task Force?
Lately, that has included multiple things. I’m on the Bourbon County Board of Trustees for UWBG and have also helped out on the Community Impact Task Force by working on WayPoint Centers and figuring out ways to help revamp United Way processes. I’ve been an active member on that task force.
What did this role include? What would a normal day look like for you?
I think we really helped with some strategic planning of new ideas for United Way. I believe that having some outside voices really helps an organization. It’s the same here at the YMCA with our Board of Directors. It always helps to hear input from people that aren’t actively working on a certain project every single day. I think we helped bring some outside perspective and community viewpoints to United Way. Again, it’s a lot easier to narrow down ideas and move processes forward from the outside, because you aren’t as involved with all the internal players. I think that’s how a lot of us were able to step in and help UWBG with some new ideas.
Can you share about the partnership between UWBG and the Paris-Bourbon County YMCA?
We’ve been partners for many years and they’ve helped us quite a bit with our childcare centers here in Paris. What we’re really excited about, which just officially launched this month, is an expanded partnership that hasn’t really happened yet in a small town or rural community. We’re trying to go for a three-pronged approach between the Paris-Bourbon County YMCA and UWBG. The first prong is that the Y is going to be a WayPoint Center location. That means that community members can walk in and get linked to needed services. Again, our Y is really the hub of our community for anybody - young or old - regardless of gender or race, they come through our doors. So it’s really a perfect location where everybody feels welcome.
The second piece of that partnership is working closely with Paris Independent Schools to help every child be reading on level by the end of 3rd grade. Studies show that if you’re able to achieve that, their chances for success academically and career-wise are much greater than if they are not reading on level by 3rd grade. We have a great partnership with the Superintendent of Paris Schools, and we may have a person in schools during the day, but also at the YMCA for our after-school program so we can really focus on some reading intervention and other things. I think it’s pretty cool for the Y to be academically partnered with the schools and with United Way.
The third and final piece of that partnership is that we’re constructing a brand new teen center on the third floor of our Y. That’s something a lot of small towns don’t have that we’ve needed for a long time, something for teenagers to do. It will be a safe, healthy place to come where they can be active but we’ll also have study areas, video game rooms and activity rooms. I think that if we can pull this off between the YMCA, school systems, and United Way, we will have done something really unique that can hopefully be replicated statewide or nationwide. It’s very unique that an entity like us may have the opportunity to say that we helped every child in the county read and graduate.
What do you think is the most special thing about UWBG?
I think the most special thing is their ability to change and adapt to changing community needs. There’s also the new age of fundraising, where people aren’t going to blindly give money anymore, whether it’s to UWBG or to us here at the Y, but are really focusing on the mission of helping others and giving back. I think UWBG’s ability to recognize that change and begin to adapt so that they can continue to be a long lasting charity is pretty special. To see these changes and still be willing to grow and adapt after 100 years is a special thing.
In your opinion, what positive change has UWBG made in the Bluegrass over the past 100 years?
That’s not an easy question. Through partnerships and helping to fund so many worthy causes over the years, I think it’s difficult to narrow down what that would be. But I know they’ve had quite the impact on a number of children here in Bourbon county, whether through our program or others. It’s hard to put a price on being such an influence on the lives of so many people for so many years.
What’s your favorite place in the Bluegrass?
My favorite place is the baseball field. I love to coach and play, so there are many of those places where I feel like I can have an impact on young people outside of work. I run the baseball league in Scott County and I love being there more than just about any place else.
What’s your favorite thing to do in the Bluegrass?
My wife and I love to tour bourbon distilleries. Buffalo Trace and Woodford Reserve are definitely fun places to go. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the horse farms here in Bourbon county. If you’re a horse lover or just want to see some incredibly beautiful scenery, come to Bourbon county and take a tour. Claiborne Farm has a wonderful one that we’ve been on a few times. It’s fun to experience everything this area has to offer.
Thank you for being such a strong part of UWBG, Drew! We appreciate you and all that you do.
Do you know someone who has worked alongside United Way of the Bluegrass in the past century who should be considered for our 100 Heroes series? Please email us at email@example.com to share your nomination!