McGaw’s Henry Johnson bids farewell to front desk


Henry (Jonell) Johnson has been a YMCA believer since his days working at the Ann Arbor YMCA in his home state, Michigan.

“Some organizations talk about being purpose-driven, but the Y backs it up – we walk the talk, you could say. And I wanted to be a part of that movement.”

So, he moved to the McGaw YMCA in Evanston. For the past six years, Henry has stood behind the front desk, welcoming McGaw members with an energy many have come to appreciate. Though Saturday is his last day in member relations, Henry will continue to share his talents with McGaw.

Beginning next week, Henry will be providing program support for Camp Echo. Come summer, when most of the Camp Echo staff lives onsite in Michigan, Henry will remain at McGaw, answering questions from parents, making sure buses are loaded on time, and generally being the local face of Camp Echo.

Though he never went to camp as a child, he was invited to Camp Echo for a leadership training. Camp Echo, he said, “is magical, the best thing on earth. I just loved seeing so many people connected and involved in the same purpose: teaching values and having fun.”

The strength of the Y, Henry said, is that it truly builds an inclusive community. His approach to member relations has always been to approach everyone who enters McGaw with the same respect and attention, regardless of their income or status level. He likes the challenge of finding out what each person needs, be it an immediate solution or just to feel that someone genuinely listened to their concern.

“I’ve had members say things like, ‘I had to wait in line at the post office for 45 minutes and the guy working there was in a bad mood, but now I see you and you just made my day,’” Henry said.

McGaw members may miss seeing Henry on a regular basis, but they can rest assured he will continue to make the day of so many YMCA families in our community.

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