When Audrie Echnoz first joined the YMCA Gardena as its Program Director, she thought it meant that she was in charge. She started to order everyone around, but she didn’t get the results that she wanted. Eventually, she discovered that she had a smart, resourceful and capable staff and started to listen and get feedback from them. It was then that she became an effective leader. The lessons that she learned on the job combined with a passion and commitment to the community have resulted in a number of accolades for Audrie, including the Gardena Valley Chamber of Commerce’s Outstanding Women award. After serving as the Executive Director of the YMCA Metropolitan Los Angeles, Audrie is now the executive director of the YMCA Hollywood and recognized as a thought leader and expert in community development.

Her successful track record in the business world is also the culmination of personal journey in self-discovery and empowerment. Growing up in a large family as an active student-performer-athlete, she still felt the need to overcompensate to get noticed. Over time, she learned to embrace certain life principles that have since served her well. Whether it’s her work with the community or her relationship with her husband and children, it all revolves around being genuine. She believes that everyone in this world is special and has a purpose — with no regard to title, money or power. She also believes that her job is to mentor and to impart sound advice. She frames it well, “We want to know we belonged somewhere and that the world will hold our imprint forever. That our kids will remember the lessons we taught them.” Let’s meet Audrie now.

What attracted you to be part of the YMCA organization?

I started working for the Y almost 20 years ago, when my oldest child began swim lessons. I could immediately feel the warmth and sense of community from the staff and other Y members. I immediately felt like I belonged, and at that time in my life, I didn’t feel like I belonged anywhere. 

The Y focuses on 3 very important areas: Youth Development, Healthy Living and Social Responsibility. Each of our programs incorporates an emphasis on character values; Honesty, Caring, Responsibility and Respect. This embraced so much of what I am passionate about! I haven’t looked back since!

How does this particular YMCA create community? What are the challenges unique to the Hollywood area?

Each Y is unique in that we listen to the needs of our community and serve in the best way we can to meet those needs. The Hollywood Y is very unique; we sit in the middle of a huge tourist setting but are surrounded by beautiful neighborhoods with long-time residents. We are visited by people in the entertainment industry who prefer to keep a low profile during a quick work out, while serving our long time family members who have invested in our Y for 30 years or more. 

Hollywood is often a stop along the way to somewhere else though. So the community can be a bit disconnected. The Y provides a safe place for people to join together in one spot, to become one. Our members connect and share stories over a cup of coffee, they make new friends as their kids play together, and develop new skills or volunteer, all as a community. Unexpected relationships are formed and many have lasted decades, all starting here at the Hollywood Y.

What programs have you developed or expanded to encourage healthy living? Do social media and technology come into play? 

2017 was my first year serving as the Executive at the Hollywood YMCA. Our team was able to launch our Teen Program, our Youth and Government Program and Fit Kids. We also expanded our menu of fitness classes including beginning TRX classes. Additionally we added another school to our PE program where we provide physical education on school grounds for elementary students. Each of our programs include a fitness component including exercise and nutrition education. 

Our teens are of course, excellent in using social media and enjoy posting about their Y experiences. They create their own hashtags and love their selfies. We also include computers and program software plus tablets for our teens to access for school projects and college research. We encourage the community to like our facebook page at Hollywood YMCA to keep up with our activities or you can follow the ymcala on Instagram. 

Read the rest of her story in the summer 2018 issue of FitNFabs.

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