YMCA goes local with pick for CEO

Francis J. Kenneally III, new CEO of the Merrimack Valley YMCA. 

LAWRENCE — After a nationwide search, the Merrimack Valley YMCA chose one of its own to head up the regional organization.

Frank Kenneally, 51, a 30-year employee who started his career in college as a lifeguard and camp counselor, and who most recently served as chief operating officer, was tapped to be the new CEO, or chief executive officer.

The appointment, according to a press release issued Friday, is effective immediately.

“This leadership appointment is the result of a rigorous and comprehensive national search,” said YMCA Board of Directors Chairman Peter Lafond.

“The (search) committee placed the highest priority on finding a visionary leader to expand upon our already strong foundation, inspire organizational growth and address the most critical issues facing the communities we serve and Frank Kenneally was the unanimous choice.”

Kenneally said it's hard to believe he is heading up an organization he's spent his entire career with.

"To be the CEO of the Merrimack Valley YMCA, in my home region, I'm so excited to get this opportunity," he said Friday. "I've always been in the Merrimack Valley and have worked in every branch in one way or another.

Kenneally takes over an organization that has been on a growth trajectory for some time, and which is likely to continue to grow as it invests in its facilities, particularly the Lawrence YMCA at 40 Lawrence St.

The regional YMCA serves 35,000 people in the Merrimack Valley at three locations, plus camps.

There are 8,000 members at the full-service Andover branch on Haverhill Street and 2,000 members at the Lawrence branch, also a full-service facility. The Methuen YMCA is at 129 Haverhill St.

Camp Otter is a day camp for boys and girls ages 6 to 13 on Captain's Pond in Salem, New Hampshire. Two overnight camps located on an island in Lake Winnipesaukee serve boys and girls ages 8 to 16.

The administrative offices are at 360 Merrimack St., Lawrence. 

The YMCA has about 700 employees and the regional organization has an $18 million budget, Kenneally said.

In recent years, the YMCA invested $24 million to renovate and expand the facility in Andover.

Currently, a capital campaign is underway to raise up to $6 million to renovate and expand the Lawrence YMCA. So far, $3 million has been raised and a lot of work has already been done, Kenneally said.

"We are building as we go," he said, noting that the lobby has been renovated, two new program spaces have been added, and the child care center has been expanded to serve more families.

The locker rooms have been renovated and the final task is to build a health and wellness center, similar to one that is used today at the Andover facility.

The Andover facility has "created some exciting programs," Kenneally said, such as a Livestrong program for cancer survivors, a diabetes prevention program, arthritis programs and more. "When we finish in Lawrence, the new health and wellness center will replicate those programs."

Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera, who supported Kenneally's candidacy, said he's happy with the new appointment.

"He knows all the facets of the programs and will do good things for Lawrence," he said. "He knows the community and knows what families need."

Rivera said it was good to have someone local, who has lived and worked in the area and has strong ties to Lawrence.

"He knows Lawrence," Rivera said, adding that he looks forward to Kenneally "maintaining or expanding the programs they have, executing the capital campaign for the Lawrence facility and I hope he hires someone local for the Lawrence branch."

Currently, there is nobody at the helm in Lawrence, Rivera said. 

Kenneally lives in North Andover with his wife, Amy, and two sons who go to Central Catholic. One other son is in college.

He said his wife formerly worked at the YMCA in Lawrence and both his wife's family and his family have roots in the city.

“I have a great passion for the work of the YMCA and the Merrimack Valley community,” said Kenneally. “In my 30 years at the MVYMCA, I have been able to grow with the organization and I am excited to have the opportunity to provide the strategic vision our YMCA needs to be successful in the future. I look forward to leading our staff and expanding the reach and impact in our diverse communities.”

During his 30-year tenure at the Merrimack Valley YMCA, Kenneally held many positions ranging from youth and aquatics director, to senior program director; to executive director, to district executive director; to vice president of operations, to chief operating officer.

He holds a bachelor’s degree from Salem State College, a master’s degree from Springfield College, and a certificate in non-profit leadership from the University of Notre Dame.

The YMCA's former president and CEO Gary Morelli resigned in December of last year. Morelli, who had been with the YMCA for 22 years, said he was leaving his job to pursue other opportunities.