Q&A with Paul Kieltyka, President & CEO of the Summit Area YMCA

September 18, 2019

With 25 years of experience in the Y movement, Paul Kieltyka is a New Jersey YMCA veteran. He began his career as a Sports Director at the Somerset Hills YMCA and progressed through leadership positions at both Somerset Valley and the Metropolitan YMCA of the Oranges. He became President & CEO of the Summit Area YMCA in 2014. Paul lives in Scotch Plains with his wife Maggie and their two daughters, Megan and Lauren. We caught up with him recently and asked him to reflect on his YMCA career.

How did you get started with the YMCA?

I was a Y kid. I grew up going to the Westfield Y, so I knew firsthand how the Y’s values and mission positively impacted my friends and their families. The Y was a fun place to be, but it also was a place where I could challenge myself to try new things and be a part of a broader community.

Did you always want to work for the Y?

No, I never gave it a thought, but in 1994, Craig Panzano, who was then the COO of the Somerset Hills YMCA, hired me as sports director. I had just earned my master’s in Athletic Management from East Stroudsburg University and Craig must have seen something in me. I thought I’d try it out for six to nine months until I found another job. Then, Craig showed me it could be a career. Looking back, 1994 was a momentous year. I finished graduate school, started my first YMCA job, and got married—all in a period of one summer!

What is it about the Y that has kept you here for 25 years?

The Y is not just about day care, athletics, swimming and summer camp. All our work springs from the Y values. Together with our staff and volunteers, we make a difference in the lives of people in our community. People in this area have lots of stresses—we can’t solve their problems, but we can provide an escape from stress and time for families to enjoy healthy activities together.

What’s been your best experience as CEO of the Summit Area YMCA?

I had always hoped to have the opportunity to build a new Y facility from the ground up. And we’re doing that now in Berkeley Heights. When I got here five years ago, we didn’t have the money or a site. I had the chance to jump in and help make a new facility a reality. Raising funds and working with architects and donors has been an incredibly satisfying experience. We started building in October 2018 and now we’re just a few months away. It’s a $15 million, 38,000 square foot facility with an outdoor pool. The new building will help us expand our mission and it will present a big step up for our staff and volunteers.

What are the greatest challenges facing YMCAs today?

Challenge number one is child protection. Parents entrust their children to us, and we must be vigilant in honoring that trust. Child protection must be foremost in all our management practices, our services, and our activities. We need to show everyone that we take every single precaution with our kids. Our second challenge is to remain sustainable financially even as we compete with other organizations that provide similar services. We also need to make sure our communities understand that we are nonprofit and have a mission of social responsibility to serve the community.

As the new chair of the Y Alliance, what is your vision for the Y Alliance?

As a CEO of a local Y, I want to make sure our Ys materially benefit from the Y Alliance. My priority is to publicize the collective impact YMCAs have on NJ residents. I want to collect data from each Y on services, fund raising, etc. and then share that across the state. We need to strengthen our story and ensure people are aware that YMCAs are the largest provider of day care, aquatic lessons, summer camp experiences, etc.

What do you do off the job?

I’m a big reader. Right now, I’m reading Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers” and then I’ll start his “David and Goliath.” I also love to travel. My wife, Maggie, and I just celebrated our 25th anniversary in Mexico with a side trip to Las Vegas. With that as a refresher, I’m ready for the challenges of a new year.