YMCA director returns to Dot roots; sees branch as a ‘welcoming place’

New Dorchester YMCA Executive Director Anthony Attride: "feels great" to be back in the neighborhood. Dan Sheehan photo

When Anthony Attride was hired as executive director of the Dorchester YMCA last summer, it meant he would be returning to an organization just blocks away from his childhood home on Fuller Street, where he lived until the age of five.

Attride told the Reporter that it “feels great” to be back in the community. “It was an overwhelming feeling when they actually offered me the job,” he said. “When you look back, you’re very thankful for the people who kind of mentored you and shaped you throughout your career.”

Attride began his new role with years of experience at the Y already under his belt: In 2011, he signed on as the membership director at the Huntington YMCA branch before moving to Dorchester where he became operations director in 2017.

Then, he moved out west to take a position as associate executive director at the East Bay YMCA in Richmond, Calif., where he said it was “trial by fire” but overall a rewarding experience.

“There’s a saying, ‘You don’t know what you don’t know,’ and I think that experience made me realize how much I had to learn,” he said. “But I got some really great feedback out there, which prepared me for where I am today.”

As executive director, Attride is filling the shoes left by Andrea Baez, whom he called a “mentor.” Taking cues from her will be part of his model for success going forward, he said. “She connected folks so well, she really was the epitome of an open-door policy, you know, in terms of if you need to talk about anything professionally, personally, ‘I can help you kind of navigate that, I’m here for you.’ I was very keen to that because there was never a time when she felt unavailable for myself or any other staff, so I try to emulate that going forward.

“And I think for this particular position and role, there’s not many folks who know how to hustle more than she does. The energy, the commitment that it takes to be successful in this role … I learned that’s kind of the expectation ... I’m super appreciative because she definitely laid that foundation for what a successful ED looks like.”

In discussing his own vision for the Y going forward, Attride emphasized that finding a balance between stability and flexibility is key when it comes to running a successful branch.

“For me, it’s working on the foundation of the stuff that we already have here, and making sure that those things are successful...I want to be creative in the things that we do here but I also recognize that consistency is very powerful and it helps guide a lot of the things we do. But I want this branch to be the best for whoever needs it, and if that requires that we think a little differently about some things, I’m all for it.”

Taking stock of the community and its rapidly changing environment, Attride acknowledged the need to remain a rock in the neighborhood and provide a welcoming space for everyone.

“Dorchester is – not surprisingly, but surprisingly – a lot different than I remembered it from three years ago. So I think what I really want it to be is a place where everybody feels welcome. There have been so many things about Dorchester that have changed, whether it be an influx of people moving in or others moving out, and I think it’s up to us to embrace the community that not only has been here for many, many years, but also to recognize and respect the fact that there are some folks that are in Dorchester that maybe in years past wouldn’t have been the case, but now they are part of this flourishing community.

“At the end of the day, I just want a place where everybody feels like the place I want to go to is the Y –that’s where I feel supported, I feel safe, and I can be the best version of myself every day.”

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NOTE: Greater Boston YMCA began to close all fitness facilities and pools beginning Mon., March 16, in response to statewide efforts to contain the COVID-19 virus. Branches will remain open as food distribution centers and for “essential” childcare services.

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