Family away from home; YMCA youth director retires after over 28 years

Published 10:32 am Wednesday, July 13, 2016

By Ashley Harrington

Although she has two children and two grandchildren of her own, Ruth Chamberlain has been called mom by dozens of youngsters during her time as youth director at the YMCA of Austin.

But after over 28 years of working with youth at the Y and making it a second home for many, Chamberlain will officially retire July 15 and move on from her position.

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“I think it’s time to hand it off to the youngins,” Chamberlain said.

With her husband, Ross, recently retiring from Hormel Foods Corp., the timing seemed right.

“I had a really, really good ride here and I just want to go out on a good note,” she said.

Chamberlain started her career back in 1987 when a friend offered her some temporary work to replace an employee on maternity leave. She jumped at the opportunity and after three months of work, her future career at the Y was set.

“I just kind of worked myself up from there. I worked the front desk then I worked supervision,” Chamberlain said. “I just worked myself up to youth director.”

Throughout her career, Chamberlain has been an advocate for the YMCA’s efforts to get children more involved.

Her leadership has inspired programs geared toward making fitness and health fun. She believes it’s important to talk to the kids, keep them busy, and to promote healthy eating habits and moving around. Chamberlain believes these actions should be encouraged by parents as well.

“We keep our kids very, very busy,” Chamberlain said.

According to Chamberlain, one of her favorite parts of the job is the kids. She says some children spend up to nine hours a day at the YMCA.

During her first two years at the YMCA, Chamberlain and her colleagues noticed Austin’s lack of daycare facilities. They decided to start a summer daycare program at the Y called Summer Daze that would feature field trips and other fun activities.

“Let’s try it and see what happens,” Chamberlain said about the thought process. “It went off really well.”

Since then, Summer Daze has thrived. With field trips to local water parks, Minnesota Twins game and many other locations all summer long, it has grown each year thanks to Chamberlain’s contributions.

“We make sure our kids are happy and safe,” Chamberlain said.

Chamberlain has made tight connections with not only the kids she works with, but her staff as well. She has built friendships with a group of coworkers she can call family.

“I wouldn’t be here this long if it wasn’t without the staff. We’ve made a lot of good friends,” Chamberlain said.

“We’ve been close for a long time.” Chamberlain added.

Although she has offered dedicated much of herself into her work, Chamberlain believes it’s time to move on from her position.

“It’s fun to go to work, but it’s fun to go home too.” Chamberlain said.

Replacing Chamberlain will be two people who currently work at the YMCA. Julie Kerling, the preschool director at the YMCA, started working with Chamberlain on Summer Daze right away to make the transition easier. Kerling will be taking over Chamberlain’s childcare responsibilities. YMCA Member Experience Director Scott Simmons will take charge of youth sports.

“I just want to go out quietly,” Chamberlain said. “I think it’ll all go smoothly and I can just walk out.”

As she moves on from her days at the YMCA, Chamberlain has memories and friendships to take with her. Chamberlain is excited to spend time with her family as she plans to be closer to her children and grandchildren in Colorado.

Chamberlain has been married to Ross for 41 years. They have two grown sons: Kyle and Cody. Kyle lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado, with his wife, Kristi, and their sons Dylan and Drew. Cody lives in Minneapolis with his wife, Ashley.