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SOUTH-CENTRAL : New Leader Making an Impact at YMCA

June 04, 1995|STEPHEN GREGORY

Maurice Horsey III has been executive director of the Weingart Urban Center YMCA for only 2 1/2 months, but already he has made an impact.

Not only has morale increased at the center, staff members say, but the 45-year-old father of two has also launched new youth leadership programs that go beyond the YMCA's traditional "gym and swim" purview.

Horsey has also begun forging ties with municipal and community leaders to broaden participation at the center and bolster its financial resources.

"We are on the cutting edge of doing great things," Horsey said during a recent interview in his office, which is filled with commendations for his work at YMCA branches across the country.

Built in 1984 and among the largest inner-city YMCAs in the country, the 65,000-square-foot Weingart center, at 9900 S. Vermont Ave., houses an indoor pool, track, weight room, steam rooms, saunas and whirlpool baths. The center takes its name from the Weingart Foundation, a philanthropic organization that donated half of the $6 million needed to build it.

Horsey was recruited for the Weingart position in December by regional YMCA officials after former executive director Robert Wilkins was promoted to the YMCA's Downtown Los Angeles branch in the fall.

A former middle school teacher and coach for at least five sports, Horsey began his YMCA career in 1988 as a program director in his native Baltimore.

He left Baltimore a year later to run a YMCA in a low-income neighborhood in Birmingham, Ala.

At the time, the Fourth Avenue YMCA was widely seen as nothing more than a hangout for young men who lived in a nearby public housing project, Horsey recalled. "My focus was to bring the family back into the 'Y,' " he said.

To do that, he first tried to shore up the facility's support by courting officials from schools, city government and community organizations.

Through those efforts, Horsey made contacts with community leaders and professionals who helped revitalize two struggling programs to foster leadership among young people.

As part of the Leaders Club (for elementary school students) and Black Achievers (for older youth), the YMCA each week paired groups of five youths with adult mentors to share tips for educational and career development. Under Horsey's leadership the combined enrollment in the programs doubled, from 60 to 120.

"He was able to bring to the YMCA more participants," said Edwina Washington, longtime office manager at the Fourth Avenue facility. "He was a very likable person and he had a way with the community. He was able to garner resources and support."

That's precisely what local YMCA officials hoped Horsey could do for the Weingart center when they offered him the job in January.

In March he settled in San Gabriel with his wife, Judy, and 8-year-old son, Ian (his other son attends college back East).

Looking to the future, Horsey's plans include launching versions of his Birmingham mentor programs and expand athletic programming to include soccer, T-ball and gymnastics.

He also hopes to increase Latino membership to reflect the area's changing demographics.

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