Palisades Malibu YMCA Director Jim Kirtley spoke to the Palisade Optimist Club on January 17.
In explaining his many varied duties, including pumpkin and Christmas tree sales, programming for youth, scheduling for teens and seniors, answering calls, helping members with the app and attending meetings, it appears that sleep may be the last item on his “to-do” list.
Kirtley, who grew up in Kansas, came to Santa Monica to do student teaching in physical education at Lincoln Middle School. To continue teaching in California, he would have needed additional history classes, but impatient to “get to” work, he started working at the Y.
“It combined working with youth and the practical application of my degree,” he said, first working at the Palisades Y in 2001.
Kirtley worked with former Palisades Executive Director Carol Pfannkuche in Pacific Palisade in 2005, and was soon promoted and put in charge of opening a new YMCA in Antelope Valley in Lancaster in 2008.
Unfortunately, that was the height of the financial crisis. The new facility was supposed to open with 2,000 members but opened with 200. Kirtley was let go and went to work with the Boys and Girls Club.
In 2016, he came back to the Y and was assigned to prepare for the opening of the Collins & Katz Family Y on the University High campus. He was four months on the job, when it became obvious to the Y organization that new leadership was needed at the Palisades and he was tapped to come back to Via de la Paz location.
The father of two teens, Kirtley knows the importance of family programs. If a family has a membership, kids youth classes and sports are included in that membership price.
Currently, there are signups for kids (coed) ages 3 to 6 in soccer and T-ball. There is a hip hop class for ages 5 to 12 on Tuesdays, “No Cook” cooking class for ages 3 to 5 on Wednesdays and Fridays at 2 p.m. Ballet class for ages 5 to 12 are scheduled on Monday at 4 p.m.
Model United Nations is a YMCA program for middle school students. This is a three-month program that gives students the opportunity to discuss international issues, discover other cultures, develop life-enhancing skills, and make new friends. The program includes two in-person conferences, a one-day training conference and culminates in a two-night Model United Nations Summit.
Once again, this Y is sponsoring the Youth & Government program, which allows high school students the opportunity to learn how government works, by modeling after the government. Students write and pass bills, running for office, with the program culminating in the state capital.
Kirtley’s most recent “full-time” effort is overseeing food distribution for those in need. The Y receives food from Food Forward, which is a nonprofit food recovery program that keeps food out of landfill by connecting with backyard harvests, farmers markets and wholesale recovery.
Food distribution program volunteers take surplus fruit from hundreds of private properties, public parks, orchards, and farms throughout Los Angeles and Ventura counties.
Volunteers collect surplus fruits and vegetables from market vendors. Every day in the Los Angeles Wholesale Produce District, thousands of pounds of edible produce is thrown away because of cosmetic standards or changes in demand and this food is also rescued by volunteers.
In order to receive the food that is distributed, Kirtley partners with the Collins & Katz and the Culver Y to split the $500 cost for a truck that brings the food to the three locations.
Volunteers bag the food, and then people who have signed up for the program, pick up at noon on Thursdays in front of the Y.
Kirtley said there are those in Pacific Palisades who are surviving on social security, and this bag of food, which can feed a family of four for almost a week, is needed.
The groceries also go to the maids, gardeners and others who work in the and support the Palisades. “There is one participant who lives in Norwalk, and she picks up groceries for her family and two other families,” Kirtley said.
And next? “A quarter of mile walking path was developed and constructed by Cindy Simon and Tracey Price in Simon Meadow,” Kirtley said. It was dedicated in December and now the executive director wants to see it made available to members, who would like to go for a gentle and meditative nature walk.
Jim deserves a community service award for what he does for our community!