naples ymca has new youth director

Bolstering children’s programs is her mission

Quentin Roux
Special to Naples Daily News
USA TODAY NETWORK - FLORIDA


Naples, Florida - In her words, Danielle Freeman has come “full circle” by rejoining the staff of the Greater Naples YMCA after nearly two decades.

She’s the Y’s new Youth Development Director.

In addition, Freeman says she’s grateful to be able to give back via an organization that places so much emphasis on giving back to the community.

“When I worked here in the early 2000s, I was a single mom with two young kids, and I was having a tough time,” she says.

“The Y helped me out tremendously. They offered me work, my children were given (free program) scholarships - so the Y helped me raise my children. If it wasn’t for that, I don’t know how I would have got through it. They learned how to swim, how to play basketball and also developed leadership skills and character building.”

Fast forward to today: Son Daniel (22) is studying pharmacy, and daughter Chantal (20) is studying dentistry in Miami.

Coming in as the pandemic appears to be waning, Freeman says the Y is generally in kick-start mode with  thriving health and fitness programs along with various sports, personal training and special programs such as pilates, yoga and a well-equipped gym.

Her priority naturally focuses on the kids, and Freeman says she often talks strategies with her long-serving counterpart at the YMCA of South Collier (Marco Y), Stephanie Pepper.

“We throw up lots of different ideas against the wall,” Freeman says. “We’re constantly searching for creative ideas to make sure we’re serving the needs of children. You have to be innovative with that because things change all the time.”
Freeman’s main focus is on pre- and after school programs as well as summer camps, and says right now there are plenty of job opportunities for camp counselors as well as permanent staff.

Plenty of openings are also available for children.

“We want to expand, to be on the map as the place to be,” says Freeman, who has spent most of her working life in education and child development. “In formative years, sometimes children don’t have (positive) relationships at home.

“Here, they can feel part of a larger extended family. Teachers become their mentors, their coaches.”

CEO Cindy Love-Abounader says Freeman originally started at the Y as a trainer and that she often praises her mentors of the time.
 
“Then, to return with her education and expertise of managing other centers qualifies her as a “perfect fit” for the position today,” Abounader-Love says. “ She has energy, expertise, enthusiasm and determination to strive for the highest quality programs for our children.”
 
At the same time, Love praises the entire Y team for “rolling up their sleeves and digging in” during the crisis of the past year.
 
“Our community is blessed with a dedicated team that illustrates Y values and mission, pride in excellence of programs and models positive changemakers for a better us,” she says.

For more information on Freeman’s programs, e-mail her at youthdev@greaternaplesymca.org; and for more information on the Greater Naples YMCA’s wide variety of programs and activities for all ages, call 239-597-3148.

Published Monday, May 10 - Naples Daily News.