Senior Vice President & Chief Operating Officer
A 20-year YMCA professional, and lifelong “Y-kid”, Heather Perkins has devoted much of her life to advancing the Y’s mission. Heather’s history with the Y began in childhood. Growing up in Colorado, Heather learned to swim and received before and after school care through the local Y. Her connection to the Y grew stronger after moving to Kentucky, where she met her eventual lifelong mentor Dr. Hall.
Dr. Hall inspired a then-teenage Heather to join the Y Leaders Club, a youth group focused on promoting social responsibility through model government, service learning and advocacy. It was during this time period, which Heather now refers to as “one of the best experiences of [her] life,” that she fully realized the importance of the Y’s mission.
“Y Club was a great way for me to recognize and understand that it’s not about me, it’s about serving other people,” she said. “Which I am in debt not only to the Y, but to Dr. Hall for opening my eyes to that particular path.”
As fate would have it, Heather was drawn back to the Y while she was still an undergrad at the University of Kentucky. She was studying in the library one day when she noticed a classified newspaper ad that said “Do You Want to Make A Difference?” As it turned out, the Y in town was hiring.
No less than 48 hours later, Heather submitted her resume and lined up an interview to be a site director in the child care division at the Y of Central Kentucky. Citing her extensive relationship with the Y, she was hired on the spot.
Since that time, she has served the YMCA mission for two decades in communities across Kentucky, Georgia, Indiana, Illinois and now Florida helming nearly every Y program imaginable.
Heather came to the Greater Naples YMCA in June 2017 from the Greater Joliet Y in Illinois, where as Senior Vice-President and COO, she led a multiple – branch (4 facility branches; 1 program branch; 1 competitive swim team) association with a revenue of $9.8 million for close of 2016; an increase of 8% over previous year.
During her tenure in Joliet, the Y celebrated a 7% increase in membership growth including a 2% increase in membership retention, placing the Y at a 68% overall membership retention rate; 3% over national average and just shy of YUSA best practice of 70%. In addition to membership growth, the Greater Joliet Y also celebrated an 87% association-wide staff retention rate including back-to-back employee satisfaction awards from the Chicago Tribune. Heather was also instrumental in facilitating strategic planning sessions with volunteers, community partners and staff teams to create their 2-year strategic plan, facilitating a master planning timeline to share the Y’s vision of service, and helped open a Healthy Living Corridor which included a 4,500 square-foot building expansion to offer more wellness floor; multi-purpose; and, fitness studio space.
Prior to Joliet, Heather served as Executive Director of the Youth Development Center at the Y of Greater Indianapolis from 2008 to 2016. A program operation, the Youth Development Center collaborated with 18 diverse community school districts, 2 international pharmaceutical companies, 4 hospital partners and several like-minded cause-driven organizations in efforts to help all area children and teens reach their full potential. Each year, the operation served more than 11,000 children in 123 public schools and 5 charter schools, for 18 school districts, across 6 counties. As Executive Director, she led the largest impact-maker, revenue-producing Center with a 2015 Center projected revenue of $16.8 million to the total (14-Center) Association budget of $46 million. Under her leadership, the Youth Development Center secured more than $4.2 million in grants, celebrated a 62% participation growth in youth programs for school-age children, and celebrated a 74% staff team retention rate during her last 4 years in the role.
Prior to Indiana, Heather worked in the Y Youth – In - Government movement where she served in leadership roles at two of the largest Y Youth – In - Government programs in the nation as a Regional Director for the Kentucky Y Youth Association from 2001-2006 and as Executive Director of the State Y of Georgia from 2006-2007.
As Executive Director in Georgia, Heather developed a strategic planning process which included a massive redesign of marketing materials and Website that led to program growth, increased membership, and increased donor revenue. Results included establishing 6 new association programs in local, underserved, urban public schools within first 6 months, as well as establishing the first partnership between Atlanta’s Butler Street YMCA and the State YMCA of Georgia.
As Regional Director in Kentucky, she helped cultivate volunteers and started association programs statewide which grew the organization into one of the largest and most successful state YMCA teen programs in North America with an annual membership of more than 10,000 middle and high school students. In the state of Kentucky, she established 32 new youth and government programs and teen service clubs within area schools in one of the top 10 most underserved, poorest areas in North America: southeastern, Appalachian Kentucky counties; and, Y branch locations which resulted in a 300% increase in membership.
In addition to roles at the local level, Heather has served as a speaker at the 2015 Y of the USA Achievement Gap Convening, the 2013 and 2014 National Afterschool Association National Conference and the 2014 Indiana State Alliance Conference. She also currently serves as a faculty trainer for YUSA and is one-of- ten Y professionals invited to lead the YUSA Core Culture Corps intuitive nationwide.
Heather believes in the innate strength and love of people. “Together we are stronger. Together we advance to help all reach their full potential”.
Our Y is your place to thrive.
Senior Vice President & Chief Operating Officer