What does your better world look like? Is it a world full of love and compassion, without barriers and without judgement? Those were questions Jim MacGowan posed to the audience at a TEDx event held last February at Mount Saint Vincent University. He found those elements of a better world at the YMCA and that’s exactly what motivated him to get involved as a volunteer with our YMCA and our Capital Campaign.

“The YMCA is a place where love and compassion is shared by all members of the community, a place where financial barriers to access are removed by offering financial assistance for memberships to those in need; the YMCA is a place where everyone can belong,” says Jim. “One of the things that I love the most about the Y is that it is a place where you don’t feel judged – regardless of fitness level, age, ability, background, culture, race, gender or orientation, it is a welcoming environment. Put simply, the YMCA is family.”

“The John W. Lindsay YMCA project is one of the most important things that I will do in my lifetime,” says Jim. “The new YMCA will be a game changer for Halifax. It will provide extended reach for the YMCA’s services across the Halifax region and province. The new YMCA is so much more than a fitness facility. It is a center of community that will make a meaningful impact on the broader community for decades to come by providing family development programs, job skills services and New Canadian settlement services. What an amazing opportunity – who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?”

During his TEDx speech, Jim encouraged an audience of more than 100 people to get more directly involved in building a better world by being deliberate, being committed and measuring their impact. Jim approached this by volunteering with the YMCA, leveraging his expertise in finance and getting more involved by becoming first a member and eventually the Chair of the YMCA of Greater Halifax/Dartmouth Board of Directors. In continuing to follow his passion, he is currently the Vice Chair and Treasurer of our current Capital Campaign. Jim is also the Vice Chair, Finance and Audit for the YMCA Canada Board of Directors.

“Next to my family and friends, the YMCA is easily the most important thing in my life,” says Jim. “I met my wife at the YMCA and my children went to daycare there. I have developed lifelong friendships with many people I would never have met had I not been a member and volunteer.”

One of the friendships Jim made at the YMCA is with Ray Henneberry. They bonded over their mutual love of football. Jim remembers, “Almost every day we would be in the locker room at the South Park YMCA talking about football and about his beloved Green Bay Packers. Several years ago, we decided to take a road trip to Green Bay to watch the Packers and Brett Favre take on the San Diego Chargers. We had such fun on that trip that, in 2014, we took to the road again, this time to San Francisco for the 49ers’ home opener against the Packers. As an added bonus, we travelled to Palo Alto to watch the Stanford Cardinal play.”

With the new John W. Lindsay YMCA being built next to the location of the old South Park YMCA, Jim is looking forward to the YMCA family coming back together again. “When the new facility opens, so many of us will be excited to go to our new second-home, welcome new members to the YMCA family and create new memories.”


Click here to watch Jim’s full TEDx talk.