Springfield, MO

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2010 40 Under 40: Ashley French

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In 12 years at the YMCA, Ashley French’s role has moved from child-care personnel work to district director of operations.

At all levels, however, her focus has been unchanged.

“Meeting the mission of our YMCA is foremost in all of my actions and decisions,” French said.

That mission – to promote Judeo-Christian values through programs that build healthy spirit, mind and body – is something French thinks about constantly.

“The first thing I ask myself when a situation opens itself up is ‘What is best for the Y?’ ‘How will this affect the Y?’” she says.

French’s commitment to the Y has brought rapidly increasing responsibilities.

She has risen from child care personnel coordinator for the two Springfield branches to her current job, which entails operations management for three of the Ozarks Regional YMCA’s seven branches: the 3,000-member Downtown YMCA and its $1.4 million operating budget; the Child Care Branch, which has a $2.4 million operating budget and comprises 39 licensed facilities and numerous out-of-school programs; and the recreation portion of the Lebanon YMCA, with its $500,000 budget.

Taking the 100-year-old Downtown YMCA facility from a $200,000-per-year, money-losing operation in 2004 to its current position near break-even is French’s proudest achievement.

“That makes for a great feeling of accomplishment, knowing that in my tenure at the Downtown YMCA facility, we (moved from) huge losses and little growth to becoming a place where families, college students and teens are welcome and thriving, and (which is) fiscally sound,” she said. “When cutbacks are made and hard choices must be decided, a sustaining facility that meets the needs of our community and our mission is the ultimate reward.”

French credits her CEO, Brad Toft, for a large part of the confidence she needs to continue her work.

“When you are supported and respected, I feel that allows you to be more forthright in your own decision making,” she said. “I ultimately want my staff to think the way I do. I have a vision for the YMCA, and I want them to share in that vision. Their success is then measured through their own actions.”

French is active in the Junior League of Springfield, serving on the membership task force, project review and development committees. She also sits on the board of directors of Court Appointed Special Advocates.

“My husband and I have given a lot of time to CASA the past year because of our shared passion for the organization,” she says.[[In-content Ad]]


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