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YMCA director looks to make connections

ABOVE: April Jeppson is the CEO of the future Fairmont YMCA.

FAIRMONT–The Fairmont Area Community Center Foundation (FCC) has named April Jeppson the future CEO of the Fairmont YMCA. Jeppson is also currently the executive director of the Albert Lea Family YMCA.

In March of 2022, the Foundation entered into a consulting agreement with the YMCA, which was signed by the Albert Lea Family YMCA Board with the understanding that Fairmont’s future facility would be under Albert Lea’s facility.

Jeppson just took on the role of executive director with Albert Lea’s Y on July 1 though she’s been with the organization for five years.

Previously she had served as the community and marketing program director for the organization, in which she oversaw program development and management of fitness, aquatics and the senior center.

“Previously Dennis Dieser was our executive director and FACC had approached the Albert Lea Y about the possibility of operating a YMCA in their community if they were able to raise the funds and everything worked out in that direction,” Jeppson explained.

Dieser worked with the Foundation for awhile but once Covid hit, it set things back a little bit. Fast forward a few years and Jeppson is now taking on the responsibility that Dieser had.

“This YMCA (Fairmont’s) will be under the umbrella of the Albert Lea YMCA,” Jeppson said.

However, she stressed that Fairmont will have its own local leadership, but in regards to Y’s mission and guidelines, the Albert Lea branch has taken on the responsibility of making sure Fairmont is in compliance.

Amy Long, a member of the Foundation, said, “We’ve had so many wonderful YMCA partners over the years working to bring a YMCA to Fairmont. April is another fantastic partner that we’ve had the opportunity to work with. We’re grateful for her and her leadership and the support of the Albert Lea YMCA and their entire board, as well as the support we’ve received through the YMCA USA.”

Long said that the plan is for Jeppson to be the CEO of the YMCA when it is up and running, but noted that she has already been engaged with different people and groups in the community and will continue to be under a consulting agreement with the Foundation.

“Ultimately when the YMCA is up and running, the Foundation will have an operational agreement with the Y. We’re the ones bringing them in to be the operator of the community center,” Long said.

Jeppson would like to have a physical presence in both communities but said it is dependent on when and where she is needed.

“I want to be able to support both communities, but I have full faith in the Fairmont community. I believe that leadership is already in the community for this new building. My role is to support the local leadership team,” Jeppson said.

She pointed out that the new building will come with new job opportunities for Fairmont. She said the Albert Lea YMCA employs about 50 people, many of whom are part-time with a flexible schedule.

“If you think about all of the different areas, it’s health and wellness, but it’s also community and youth. We have after school programs, summer camp programs, youth sports. We have the fitness and wellness departments and instructors that teach classes on land and also in the water.”

She noted that the Albert Lea YMCA has its own swim team, which has been mentioned as a possibility for Fairmont as well.

There are also receptionists and other office positions needed.

Jeppson acknowledges that Fairmont’s proposed YMCA while different than that of Albert Lea’s, but said she feels very comfortable with what Fairmont is looking at.

“If you’ve been into one YMCA, then you’ve been into one YMCA. Everyone is different based on their community needs,” Jeppson said.

A big part of her role will be helping determine what those needs are.

“I’m not interested in doing a program that already exists in Fairmont. We want to find out what the community needs and where the gaps are and where extra support is needed,” Jeppson said.

So far, in addition to having conversations with the Foundation, Jeppson has also met with Fairmont’s interim city administrator, Jeff O’Neil, and Fairmont Area School’s superintendent, Andy Traetow.

While Jeppson has others in mind she wants to talk to, she did specifically say she wants to have a conversation with Community Education and Recreation.

“I want to see what their needs are and goals are,” Jeppson said.

She also wants to talk to the senior population and look at the youth programs to see if there are any age levels that are lacking.

“There’s a lot of people you need to talk to because one person’s perception is not the same as another person’s,” Jeppson said.

Even before the facility is built, Jeppson plans to launch programming in the Fairmont area. She spoke about the Fairmont Area School District’s new after school program, Cardinal Prime, and said that the goal is for the YMCA to operate that program starting the fall of 2024.

“Even though we won’t have a building here yet, we’ll still be able to do programming in the area that’s much-needed,” Jeppson said.

Currently the goal is to break ground for the facility in the summer of 2024 with an anticipated completion and opening date in the fall of 2025.

“This recent (resolution) passing two weeks ago from the city council is really pivotal because it shows us we can now move forward with this. We were kind of at a pause– we needed to get that passed,” Jeppson said.

She was referring to the Nov. 13 Fairmont City Council meeting where in a 3-2 vote the council approved of the current community center design, thus moving it forward. While details of the design are continuing to be refined, the facility is expected to be about 42,500 sq. ft. and cost about $26 million.

“It’s a very exciting time for Fairmont and an exciting time for us. There will be a lot of things happening fairly quickly,” Jeppson said.

“I’m really excited for more and more people in the community to get to meet April. Although she’s a newer face, she’s been just as supportive as Dennis was and the Y USA has been. She’s ready to get more involved in the community and we’re anxious for her to start making more connections,” Long said.

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