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Sharon Jenkins Padgett

CEO, Gaston County Family YMCA

Years as a Staff Member/Positions Held
1987 – Athletics Chief – Camp 3 Counselor
1988 – Land Rover – Camp 3 Counselor
1990 – UA Camper Services – Camp 4
1991 – AA – Administrative Assistant to Captain Judy

Years as a Professional Staff Member/Positions Held
1996 - 2000 – Senior Program Director
2002 – Chaperone to Sea Venture Australia

Current Profession and Title/Years in Role
CEO of the Gaston County Family YMCA,  2019 - present

Can you tell us about your career path and work within the Y movement?
Been full time with the YMCA since 1993
1993 - 2001:  YMCA of the Triangle, A.E. Finley and Camp Seafarer
2001-  2009: YMCA of Columbia, SC
2009 - present: Gaston County Family YMCA, currently serving as the CEO

What do you believe have been some of your greatest personal and professional accomplishments? Is there a goal toward which you are currently working?
I feel like I have reached my goal professionally as a CEO – my next goal is RETIREMENT! My greatest personal accomplishment is still in the works. I want to continue spreading positivity, encouragement, Christlike love and acceptance to all I encounter. At my funeral, if people can say I did that for them then I have accomplished my greatest personal goal.

How do the values or skills you learned at Camp show up in your everyday work and/or personal life?
I tell people all that time that the greatest leadership training I have ever received was at Camp Seafarer. I have attended some awesome training over the 30 years of my career, but the leadership training I received at Camp was by far the best.

During my first summer at camp I knew two people. The first week of camp Holly Bradshaw (old timer) walked up to me (new timer) and said…” will you sit with me at lunch today”. She instantly made me feel like an old-timer. I try to be a “Holly” to someone else every day of my life.

My face!  Captain Judy would always want our faces to show welcoming, happy, engaging, and acceptance no matter how we were feeling. I always tell my face every morning to show up how other people need me to be for them. When people are happy, be happy with them. When people are sad, show empathy for them. When people are mad, listen and support and encourage them.

My first expression is the first impression! Captain Judy would also talk about the two different people in the world. Zapper and Sappers. Be a Zapper – not a Sapper!

Is there a person or a situation that had a huge influence on you while you were at Camp? How and why did they/it impact you?
I was a selfish, self-absorbed 20-year-old when I came to Camp for the first time. I had no idea the impact that Camp would have on my life and still does. I had some awesome kiddos in my cabins while at Camp. You know who you are Cabin 28! But one in particular impacted my life more than I ever could imagine. Jamie Kogod. She was a Second Session camper from Potomac Md. I never thought I could love my Second Session girls as much as I loved my First Session girls, but she proved me wrong! Her parents sent her to Camp that summer because her 16-year-old sister was home dying of cancer. She and I had many talks during those four weeks and became really close.

After Camp was over I received a call in September from Jamie. She called to tell me that her sister had passed away. I was her first call. Me, her summer camp counselor! Jamie and I are still dear friends to this day. She is married, with several children who have attended Camp as well. These 13-year-old girls in Cabin 28 taught me more than I taught them. How to be selfless and take care of someone other than myself. To understand different religions, and different ways of living, and to not take myself so seriously. I am so proud of all of them – many who continue to grow up at Camp and become staff members. Many of whom I am Facebook friends with today!

What does it mean to you to be a leader? What can our campers and staff do to help build their skills?
"You lead people. You manage things."  – John Maxwell

But you cannot lead without having followers. People don’t follow people just because they are a leader. A leader needs to show empathy, integrity, and enthusiasm for who they are leading and for what they are leading. They need to (as Captain Judy would always say) show the way, know the way and go the way.

Campers can watch their role models (counselors, UAs) and emulate who they are, what they are and how they show up in the world. 

Counselors need to actively participate in staff training and realize that this is some of the best training they will ever get on leadership from some of the best leaders they will ever have! Take what you learn from summer camp and implement it into your life, your values, and who you want to become as a human being. It’s not too late!

Favorite Camp meal: Sunday fried chicken!

Favorite mess hall entry song: Boogie Shoes, by KC and the Sunshine band

All-time favorite skit memory: Captain Jellyfish!!!! – When Bill Finley would mess with the head table in his skits! And always Evil Skeva

Favorite special event at Camp: July 4th

The devotion you best remember from Camp:  Not so much a devotion as the singing at Sunday service – that is what I loved the best – Anything with Lynn Moss, Beth Dehart and Kathryn Bilbro

If you had to have an intro song every time you walked into a room what would it be? Happy by Bruno Mars

Do you have a hidden talent? I can sing the 50 states in alphabetical order

What three words best describe you? Energetic, motivating and fun

What profession other than your own would you like to try? Running a Foundation. I have had to ask for money for so many years in my Y career, I now want to work in a profession where I no longer have to ask, I just give money away!

What would you eat if you could only have one food for the rest of your life? Pizza!