ALPHARETTA, Ga. — Growing up, Ollie Wagner and his family could often be found at the neighborhood YMCA. His family enjoys going to the gym so much, his parents’ first date was at a YMCA dance.
“I hung out at the Y pretty much every day after school and a good part of my summers,” Wagner said. “I learned to swim there, play pool and ping-pong, my mom taught ballet and my dad and I played in basketball leagues. It was always a great part of my life.”
But while previously working as the pastor at a small church, he was unable to pay for a membership and had to put his involvement with the Y on hold.
“I couldn’t afford it and didn’t have money to join a gym,” he said.
However after becoming the pastor at the Alpharetta Presbyterian Church, he was able to rejoin.
“Because it’s a bigger church and I make a little more money. I thought, ‘hey, we can now afford to join the YMCA,” Wagner said. “I toured the facility and thought it was the most beautiful gym I’d ever seen. I said, ‘if it works out with the church, we could find a house and the kids would have good schools and we could join the Y again.’”
So he joined and eventually became involved beyond just working out. He recently was named Chairman of the Board of Directors at the Ed Isakson/Alpharetta YMCA for the next two years.
But he never forgot the time he couldn’t afford a membership.
He was leaving the Alpharetta location one day and learned about the YMCA Campaign which funds scholarships for gym members and children for camps.
“That opened a whole new world to me,” Wagner said. “What I realized is the YMCA is not your typical gym. It’s a non-profit with a mission of serving the community. That means, in part, turning no one away because they can’t afford to pay.”
Now, he said he’s happy to give his money and time to help the YMCA, especially since one in five people who participate in the Y, from summer camps to school programs, needs some financial assistance. Two thirds of the scholarship money helps children.
“I am on board,” he said. “I am a believer. I’m glad we can afford as a family to participate and that I am able to give financially back because you know it’s helping others. You don’t know who is on scholarship. It’s just one family.”
That opened his eyes to see the Y does more than sponsor dances, run swim lessons and basketball camps. He even visits Ys, and he soon realized the Y’s mission is nationwide and worldwide.
“It’s a mission for building stronger communities, helping academic preparedness for children, helping teen leadership develop and help form healthy lifestyles,” Wagner said. “It’s for all ages, special needs, foster care and all others. I’m one of those people who would say, ‘I had no idea the Y did so much good for so many people in so many ways.’”
And he will remember all of this while doing his job as chairman representing the Y.
“Our job is to be cheerleaders and supporters of what the Y is doing,” Wagner said. “We can suggest ways to strengthen and enhance the mission while supporting the staff. We are trying to be part of the fabric of the community.”
For Wagner, his position is an opportunity to give back to an organization that has greatly blessed and enriched his life.
“I know it’s done the same for the people I’ve seen participate,” Wagner said. “I want to help in whatever way I can to further and strengthen the Y’s mission. I am honored to try and help out and provide whatever leadership service I can.”