Meet Kendra Yanchak, new leader of Lake Highlands YMCA

Kendra Yanchak with Clint Elliott on Kendra’s first day as executive director of the LH YMCA

When I sat down with Kendra Yanchak on her first day as new executive director of the Lake Highlands Family YMCA, it was clear she’s hardly new to the ways of the Y. Kendra spent 8 years at the Park Cities YMCA and 3 years as executive director in Coppell. She and husband, Cody, have a young son, 4, and daughter, 7, active in the many programs offered at their home YMCA in Richardson.

“The kids do swim lessons and soccer and t-ball,” Kendra told me, “and my daughter loves Adventure Guides.”

Adventure Guides, known as Indian Guides and Princesses back in the days when my kids enjoyed it, brings fathers and sons or fathers and daughters together to escape for a weekend outdoors. Kendra recalls her all-time favorite YMCA experience, the time she administered a campout, permitting the entire Yanchak family to attend together.

“It forces you to take tame away with no TV and no distractions. It strengthens that bond between the dads and the kids. My daughter shot a BB gun for the first time and hit a bull’s eye with an arrow. The dads and daughters made a fire from scratch, did egg tosses, did climbing walls – there were lots of activities they all could enjoy.”

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Clint Elliott, Lake Highlands’ popular director for almost 11 years, isn’t going far. He’ll take on the role of district executive director, supervising the LH YMCA and working out of the J.E.R. Chilton YMCA in Rockwall.

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“Getting used to a new community will be a challenge,” Clint said. “Lake Highlands has been very welcoming to me. I’ll miss that small town feel inside the big city and the way we can listen to the high school principal at the Exchange Club meetings talk about our odds of winning the football game coming up Friday night. You just don’t get that communal feel many places. Lake Highlands is unique.”

Clint, though, is excited about his new role and the legacy he’s left behind.

“On my watch we became known for Midnight Basketball, where we partnered with the Police Athletic League to work with underprivileged kids. It’s built around mentorship and role-modeling by volunteers and interaction with the Dallas Police Department. Some of those kids are in a demographic where they don’t always know police are their friend.”

The program was created around July 7, 2016, when DPD officers were ambushed in downtown Dallas. Five officers were killed and 9 others were wounded.

“One of my most memorable moments was seeing kids’ interaction and understanding that we’re both just people, and not the vilified version society pushes out many times.”

Kendra says Midnight Basketball is one of LH’s many successful programs she aims to keep.

“We want to figure out who is moving into the neighborhood and what are the demographics we need to target, without losing sight of the signature programs we’ve always had. I started out working with teens, and they need a caring adult. Young families want a place to connect, and being able to provide that is a special thing.”

She also knows the community is ready to help.

“I’m told the LH YMCA has partnerships with the Exchange Club, the Women’s League and other groups, and I want to get personally involved. We have an expansion project on the horizon, and I want the community to see what we have to offer.”

After you welcome Kendra, pop in to Brumley Gardens to congratulate Becky Lance, her mom. Becky is manager of Brumley’s garden center and may be happiest of all to welcome Kendra to the Lake Highlands business community. Becky worked for the North Carolina Arboretum then the Biltmore Estate in Asheville and moved here when her daughter had her first child.

If you’d like more information on the YMCA’s sports, fitness classes or other great programs, check out their website here. You may make a donation here.

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