It’s hard to miss Guy Gerard.
At 6’9”, he’s typically the tallest person in the room, especially in Seymour.
He’s also a giant advocate for children with decades of experience in working with them.
And Gerard is the new branch director at the Seymour YMCA on East Center Avenue.
“For me, it’s a dream job,” he said with a smile. “I’m here in Seymour, living in a small town that my wife and I just love. I’m involved in the community. And I’m working with people of all ages, young and old.”
A native of Rock Island, Ill., Gerard has a passion for working with children.
After he graduated from high school, he moved to a small town similar to Seymour in Hampton, Ill., population 1,400.
In Hampton, he was very active in the community. Gerard served as captain of the volunteer fire department. He was a village trustee — a position similar to an alderman here.
For 25 years, Gerard was a volunteer basketball coach.
“It’s safe to say that I was very involved in the town in Hampton,” he noted. “I love being involved in the community, especially with kids.”
He and his wife, Tami, married for more than two decades, raised two daughters, who now are 24 and 21.
Two years ago, Tami Gerard was offered a different position with her company, so she accepted a transfer to Springfield. Prior to that, her dad had moved to Diggins, so the Gerards had visited southern Webster County.
“We had visited Seymour twice ... once for the Rock’n Ribs event at the park, then the second time for the Seymour Apple Festival,” he explained.
“We loved it,” Gerard said. “We thought it was a great small town.”
So, when Tami Gerard transferred with her job to Springfield, the couple purchased a home in Seymour.
They moved here in May 2018.
“This is home,” he said. “We absolutely love it here.”
This year, notably this summer, they began getting involved in the community. Both took on very active volunteer role at this year’s Seymour Apple Festival.
“It’s hard to explain, but this is us,” Gerard said. “We are people who enjoy being a part of a small town. We want to be part of the community, part of making it better.”
Arrival at the YMCA
That’s when opportunity arose.
“I wasn’t really looking for a job, but I received a message about a month ago that the YMCA here in town was looking for a director,” Gerard explained. “I thought, ‘That’s right up my alley and sounds like a lot of fun,’ so I sent in my application for the job.”
Soon thereafter, Chad Watson, CEO of the Ozarks Family YMCA, which includes branches in Cabool, Mountain Grove, Seymour and Willow Springs, called Gerard and set up an interview.
Watson offered the job to Gerard.
And Gerard accepted.
“The top thing that attracted me to the job was Chad,” he said. “He has a big heart. He has a passion. He truly cares. Kids just love him.”
Gerard said accepting the job was answering a calling.
“I love kids, love people, so this is a great fi t,” he said.
“Working with children is a passion. It’s a job that pulls at your heart strings.
“And here in Seymour with the YMCA, I get to work with people of all ages. It’s a very diverse group. It also involves a very diverse offering of services.”
There is a daily opportunity to positively impact lives.
“Coming here may be the best thing in a day for a 7-yearold children or an 80-year-old senior citizen,” Gerard noted.
“I love being a part of that.”
He said he’s also aided by “a good set of ears,” meaning he’s willing to listen to people, whether what they have to say is good or bad.
“Being here makes me feel like this is where I belong,” Gerard said. “I know I’ve only been here for a few weeks, but there are times I feel like I’ve been here for years.
“For me, it’s just as simple as caring. That’s the key. My wife is the same way. I’m also not afraid to work, to put in the time that’s necessary for the YMCA in Seymour to not only succeed, but to thrive.”
When visiting Gerard’s office near the entrance of the YMCA, first spotted are busy walls.
They are covered with photographs of youth teams that he coached in Hampton — teams of all ages.
Complimenting the photos are certificates for community and youth service for decades of volunteerism.
“I do feel that when it comes to running a facility like this one, a facility that a small town like Seymour is blessed to have, you either have the passion to do it or you don’t,” he explained. “And there are so many opportunities here at this YMCA. People often just see it as a hub for kids.
“I see it much bigger than that. It’s a facility to bring all ages together, not just people from Seymour, but people from the rural area and many other communities.”
Ultimately, it’s a place that brings families together.
“If run correctly, there’s something for everyone here at this YMCA,” Gerard said. “Every member of a family should be able to find an activity here to be involved.”
New programs planned
Atop the list for Gerard is adding more programs.
More community-related programs, such as a self-defense program held last Saturday, offered to anyone at no cost.
Different sports camps are planned.
Day camps are planned.
“I want to get our school coaches involved with our programs,” Gerard noted. “I don’t expect them to coach, but I value their input as to what we’re teaching.
“The bottom line on everything, as I see it, is how can the YMCA help Seymour?”
He plans to offer courses that teach young people about community service.
Homework tutoring will be offered. For that program, he wants to work with Seymour’s teachers.
“I think the proper term would be to turn our YMCA into a ‘helping hub,’ not just for children ... again, for people of all ages,” Gerard said.
When it comes to new programs, he’s all ears.
“I’m 100-percent soliciting ideas for programs from the people here,” he said.
Gerard gave an example.
“Recently, I had a plan pitched to me for LEGO robotics,” he said. “Once I heard it out, I realized it would work.”
The goal is to get Seymour’s young people off the streets and into a positive environment.
“What I don’t want to see is young people hanging out behind old city hall, getting into trouble because they’ve got nothing to do,” he said.
If a young person can’t afford a YMCA membership, then Gerard will find the funding.
If a family can’t afford to use the YMCA, he’ll find the funding.
And if a senior citizen can’t afford to be a part of programs, funding will be found.
“An inability to pay won’t prevent people, regardless of age, from using our facility and becoming part of the YMCA and the family here,” Gerard concluded.
For more information on the Seymour YMCA, stop by and visit with Gerard at 315 East Center Avenue or call 417-935-2177.