Oral History with Paul Vest

Special Collections at UNC Asheville
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00:00:00 - Introduction 00:01:07 - Family and Life in WNC

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Partial Transcript: During his career was actually the CEO in Atlanta for a number of

years and then was a field consultant for the national Y in the Philadelphia

area, and then of course I'm in the Y, and then my son Brian, my oldest son,

started and worked 10 years in Charlotte, and now he's in Greenville, South

Carolina as an Executive Director down there and doing great work. So our Y

blood runs pretty thick.

Keywords: Mission; Virginia; YMCA

00:02:50 - LGBTQ+ Ally and The YMCA

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Partial Transcript: So we used probably if not all of 2003 as an organization to really have

dialogue, and again, this was at a time where across the state of North

Carolina, YMCAs as a whole pretty much accepted the term or the definition of

membership as what's defined by the state of North Carolina. At that time it was

married, man and woman. And YMCAs and most organizations kind of leaned into

that and used that as the crutch for how they were defined a family, so to

speak. And I think for me it was, a couple things. One, it was an awareness that

as an organization we needed to deal with this, and it wasn't so much just what

... so anyway, we went into a process and our executive committee and eventually

Keywords: Ally; Christianity; Progressive; Spirituality; WNC; YMCA

00:19:23 - LGBTQ+ Community Interaction through the YMCA and Growing Up

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Partial Transcript: I just, we would just have conversation and just have some empathy and

understanding of where people are in their lives and what they're going through,

and it's just not sometimes always hunky dory. We really get into some

situations where people just need to be held up and loved on and supported and

let them get through their journey and let us support that.

Keywords: Childhood; Diversity; LGBTQ+; YMCA

00:25:30 - Organizations and Modern Views on the LGBTQ+ Community in Businesses

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Partial Transcript: Probably not directly. I know Annette, our vice president of human

capital is actively involved in some of the diversity and inclusion work, it's

an effort within itself in the community to look at some of these issues, and I

know we've had a number of staff that have been a part of that. I've personally

just recently got involved with a group of business leaders that really are

talking about the racial divide right now that's going on in our community.

Again, I don't think you can just talk about these and that's the focus but I

think part of that focus then becomes the greater focus, when you start talking

about disparity and what's going on, health disparity and the challenges that

not only people of color are facing right now, but what about the LGBTQ

communities and some of the other communities that are kind of on the fringe.

Keywords: Athletics; Businesses; Gender Identity; LGBTQ+; Sexuality

00:38:19 - The Transgender and Non-Binary Communities with the YMCA

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Partial Transcript: Right. And I know we've done some, as part of our work, I know we've

got some grant dollars that help support the youth trans community here in

Asheville. I think they've been going through some transition, but just some

recreational aquatic activities and things that we were doing during the time

that the Y was closed to give them their privacy and opportunity-

Rachel Muir, In...:Yeah. That was great. I witnessed that.

Paul Vest:Oh good.

Keywords: Inclusivity; Non-Binary; Transgender; YMCA; Youth

00:41:56 - The LGBTQ+ Community with The Pandemic and Mental Health

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Partial Transcript: I shared this story at our annual meeting that early on in the closure

of our Y's, this is where it really started dawning on us, and we know this as

staff, we know this in our hearts and souls, but the reality was I don't know

that our community understands this about us as an organization but you

mentioned the elders, we had an older gentleman who had lost his wife a number

of years ago and he had been in a situation where he had this routine about his

daily life since losing her and it was to go downtown and he'd meet up with his

buddies and they'd have breakfast and then he'd go to the Y and have coffee, and

who knows if he worked out, he may have sat in the lobby and just socialized,

but one of our property guys noticed this car out in the parking lot with a

gentleman sitting in it, and he went out and asked if he was okay and if there

was anything he needed, and he said, "No." He said, "This is my place. This is

where I need to come."

Keywords: Elders; Health; Independence; Mental Health

00:49:14 - Minorities and the YMCA, Scholarship Opportunities, and Growing of the YMCA

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Partial Transcript: We've tried to do that as well with the multicultural side of this, with the

black and brown community, and it's been a little more challenging, partly

because of just the percentages of those employees that we are constantly

working to try and build those bridges. So in my mind, this is one of those

things that even with the ... this is not only the right thing to do from a

values and a mission statement of the YMCA and who we are culturally as an

organization, this is a good business decision, across the board. To see the

changing and the browing of America, we have got to be that organization that's

going to be welcoming to all people.

Keywords: Intersectionality; Minorities; Scholarships; Transgender; YMCA

01:01:34 - LGBTQ+ Employment and Diversity Inclusion Work

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Partial Transcript: And

sometimes the conversation may not go the way that the Y, the organization, or

the individual wants it to go, but at least if you're having that honest,

genuine conversation, I think there's some understanding there, and I think

people get afraid of that and I think there's some fear in there.

Rachel Muir, In...:I think it's right on topic. It seems to me that one of the

things we concluded that one of the best ways to make progress on these kind of

issues and on equality for example is to have conversations.

Keywords: Diversity; Employment; Equality; LGBTQ+; Organization; Staff; Support Staff; YMCA