George Saikali brought 25 years' experience to the Glendale YMCA on May 17, the day he began his duties as its president and chief executive officer.
He was so enthusiastic about starting his new job that he waited only four days after leaving the East Valley YMCA to begin his Glendale post, said Doug Smith, board chairman of the East Valley YMCA.
"He's been a Y guy for 25 years," Smith said. "He knew the values and traditions being with the organization for so long, and he did great things here."
Saikali increased membership by 10% and showed good leadership in reinvigorating the programs there, like Youth in Government, Smith said.
"He worked with Casey Banks, staff coordinator for the Youth in Government program, to get the program started again," Smith said. "I think they had 30 students last year, up from 10 the year before."
And the increase in membership in the various programs led to a retention factor of 6% of members, Smith said.
Saikali, a Burbank resident, began his YMCA career as fitness and aquatic director at the Burbank Family YMCA from 1985 to 1991. He then became executive director of Gardena-Carson YMCA in the South Bay from 1991 to 1997. Saikali returned to the Burbank YMCA as executive director from 1997 to 2003.
From there he served as executive director and group vice president for the Downey Family YMCA, where he oversaw several branches in the Los Angeles area until 2007.
Saikali then became executive director of the East Valley YMCA in North Hollywood until he accepted the position at the Glendale YMCA.
Saikali plans to brainstorm with his board of directors to come up with ideas for building membership and volunteer support and developing a place where people get to know their neighbors, he said.
"I will also be concentrating on financial development so we can continue the mission of the YMCA — to not turn anybody away because of financial hardship, and we reach out to the community to help us cover the cost," he said.
Saikali has an immense enthusiasm for the YMCA, and he's very focused on the YMCA mission and families, said Gytis Nefas, chairman of the board for the Glendale YMCA.
"He's also a former CEO of Burbank and accomplished quite a bit while he was there," he said. "He had a children's health program that was extremely successful. He's a real promoter. He starts programs that involve the local community and increases membership out of these programs."
To help build membership, Saikali said, he will be encouraging members to bring in their friends.
Saikali said he also wants to create a program that offers a balance of exercise and nutritional guidance and a welcoming environment for new members who want to improve their health.
"I will also be expanding the family membership package so folks can come with their children and exercise," he said.
That might include non-exercise classes, like music and drama, in addition to more classes where children can play games that are not considered exercise.
The Glendale YMCA has a Youth Fitness Center for all members younger than 18. Programs there include strength training and the calorie-burning video game Dance Dance Revolution, Saikali said.
Club Y, a program for children in first through 12th grades, provides afternoon activities like homework, exercise and dancing in the Youth Fitness Center, he said.
"Now I have to work on the 'how to,'" Saikali said. "I will be brainstorming and working with the board, volunteers and staff to come up with a plan that is very significant to the community."