Suzanne Green has been up since 4am. The energetic center director for Harford County’s only Y, Green taught a group exercise class called Body Pump at 5:45am. “There were 10 people today joining me that early,” she says with a smile. “It’s a great way to start the day!”
It may sound like a typical morning for a career exercise professional, but for Green, who just received her certification to teach the class this past fall, it was the culmination of a journey that started over a year ago. Green recalls her “a-ha” moment when she decided to make a change in her life. She witnessed a 70-year-old woman – young by today’s standards – struggle to carry a gallon of milk. “I thought to myself, ‘I better do something now to make sure I’m healthy and strong when I’m that age,’” she remembers. She immediately signed up for 25 sessions with a personal trainer at the Y and started down her new path.
Originally from Virginia, Green worked for nearly 10 years as the Convention Sales Manager for the Norfolk Convention and Visitors Bureau before moving to Maryland in 1997. “Working there is where I learned public speaking and how to give effective presentations to groups. I’ve had to rely heavily on those lessons in my position here at the Y. I also had a mentor there who taught me the importance of listening as a management tool. Your staff, people in general, just want to be heard. They want to know you care. “Many of the employees here are young,” she continues. “This may be their first job or they may come into it as only a ‘job.’ I’m trying to show them the impact they can have on someone’s life by quietly listening to them, treating them with respect, and extending a kind word or gesture. Those are life lessons we can all be reminded of from time to time.”
Green started at the Y in 2004 as an assistant to the center director at the time. “We had been operating for 20 years in Harford County and had no facility for programming.” In 2006 when the Y broke ground on the current site, Green was promoted to Director of Membership and Financial Development. She became the Center Director in 2009. A mother of two grown sons, Green is deeply rooted in the community. She has volunteered at the Forest Hill Recreation Council, Harford County Chamber of Commerce, Route 40 Business Association, Healthy Harford and her church. She is a charter member of the Southern Harford County Rotary Club and has served as treasurer, vice president and president of that organization. In 2011, she was a nominee for the prestigious Athena Award that honors women who show excellence in their business or profession, devote time and energy to their community, and open doors of leadership opportunity for other women.
Under Green’s leadership, the Abingdon Y has grown in size and programming. The Y-sponsored Turkey Trot held on Thanksgiving Day has grown from 250 participants in 2004 to over 1,700 in 2011 raising over $32,000. The Y has added programming like digital photography, drama and book clubs, youth science and STEM workshops, and teen leadership classes. In early January, the community heard the announcement of the expansion efforts that will bring additional multi-purpose rooms, dedicated space for youth classes, more lockers, more parking spaces, an outside patio area and the much awaited aquatics center with two pools. “Our mission is to develop the full potential of every individual through programs that build spirit, mind and body,” Green points out. “It’s not just gym and swim,” referencing the public’s perception that helped launch a new branding campaign by the Y in 2008. “I know ‘It’s Deeper Here,’ is just a tagline, but it’s true,” she emphasizes. “There’s a lot going on here. We want to be the third place in your life. There’s home. There’s work. And there’s the Y. We want to be the place where the whole family can come to and enjoy themselves and enrich their lives. We don’t want to be the facility no one uses.”
No one is turned away from membership to the Y for inability to pay. “We belong to the community,” Green says. “We’ll work with you to find a solution. A nearby housing development of families – most of whom are in challenging situations – couldn’t accommodate a place for their children to go after school. We would pick them up in our Y bus and bring them here for sports activities and play. We used it as an incentive for them to finish their homework and stay out of trouble in school. “It’s programs like that one that are supported by our fundraising efforts. One hundred percent of the money raised by the 2011 Turkey Trot, all $32,000 for example, went back into the community here to subsidize summer camp, memberships and programs,” she adds.
Green is leading an effort to develop a relationship with neighboring Wegmans that would benefit Wegmans employees and Y members. Green explains, “Wegmans’ ‘Eat Well. Live Well.’ program aligns with the Y health and wellness philosophy. The benefits of a partnership include encouraging their employees to stay involved with their own health and wellness care, and you can’t beat our location. The partnership also benefits Y members, especially our Y-Fit program designed for lifestyle change, by adding an educational nutrition component to the program.”
Looking a little farther in the future, Green describes the beginnings of a new cancer rehabilitation program also in the works. “Our Fitness Director is ACSM-certified in cancer rehab, and she and one of our personal trainers were also recently certified by the Cancer Exercise Training Institute. When the medically prescribed physical therapy runs out for the cancer patient, they will be able to come here to continue their sessions,” she says. “We are taking steps to coordinate a relationship with the new cancer center planned at Upper Chesapeake Medical Center.
“We also want our own staff to exercise and take care of themselves. You would think it would be easy working here, but it’s actually harder when you’re surrounded by it. To help them stay engaged, we encourage staff to work out during their day shift when it’s easier to get on the floor and into a class. “I’m hoping that I’ve set an example as well,” she admits. In addition to getting in shape, and acquiring her Body Pump certification, Green went back to school in 2008 and was awarded her AA degree in business administration from Harford Community College. She is a 2008 graduate of the Harford Leadership Academy and has earned Leadership Competency Awards from the Y of Central Maryland.
“I’m going to be 50 this year. I’m proud of the fact that I’ve done something new in my life to make sure that I’m healthy and stronger later.” Green isn’t ready to stop learning or leading. She’s not finished yet.