Rick Neal

“THE Y TRANSFORMED ME INTO SOMEONE WITH RENEWED PURPOSE AND PASSION.”

After 20 years in the Army as a First Sergeant (Non-Commissioned Officer/ payrate E8), I hung up my dogtags and became an Instructor and did some contracting. A couple years of that and my family wanted to put down roots, so we moved to Long Island. It wasn’t long before I realized that there wasn’t much opportunity work-wise on the East End for retired military people. I spent about 2 years just sitting on the couch doing nothing. I brought my kids to the Y – but really didn’t know much about it and didn’t feel like there was enough for me and my kids to do. When I sought out the executive director to voice my frustrations, he did something so unexpected: he truly listened. But more important, he asked. He asked me about myself; he wanted to know my story. He wanted to know what I could do and why I was sitting around on the house. I told him I was skilled in science, technology, math etc.

With my skills and military background, he recruited me to make a difference – to turn my problem into an opportunity to help others. I am now a Youth Specialist and Mentor at the YMCA East Hampton ReCenter. I went from feeling sorry for myself to feeing empowered. I’m involved and get great satisfaction from providing leadership and structure to young people. As a retired military professional, this resonates with me. I also feel aligned with the Y principles of leadership, honesty, and integrity.