Published 12:00 am Friday, March 29, 2013

SALISBURY — After more than three decades serving as executive director of the J.F. Hurley Family YMCA, Sandy Flowers is retiring.
Thursday was Flowers’ last full day at work, and staff members held a drop-in open house to let people share their well wishes. Her official retirement date is Saturday.
During the event, Flowers said she has enjoyed having a “different type of job,” where she could have an impact on the community and touch people’s lives.
She said she also feels fortunate to have met the many people in the community who have helped make the YMCA successful. That includes staff and members, she said.
“The Y is just a wonderful organization,” Flowers said. “I feel privileged to be able to work here for 33 years. … Thank you for the opportunity to serve.”
Flowers said the YMCA has changed a lot in the time she has worked there, but the changes have always been positive.
One of the best moments, she said, was when the branch finally moved from its old Fulton Street facility to a new one on Jake Alexander Boulevard.
“At the older YMCA, the main thing we were buying was duct tape to fix parts,” she said. “Going from that building to a brand new one was fantastic, and it’s all due to the community.”
Barbara Franklin, older adult director, presented Flowers with a gift from the staff Thursday— a bracelet with a heart-shaped charm. “Your leadership has always been from the heart,” Franklin said, fighting back tears. “That’s why we have been so successful.”
Franklin said Flowers has a passion for caring for people, “and that’s what the YMCA is all about… it’s a ministry.”
Flowers said she has always worked, so she may “be back at it again” once she has settled into her new life and family.
She will be getting married soon, and that’s one of the reasons she decided to retire. Flowers and her fiance, Joel Steele, both decided to sell their houses and make a new home together. Flowers said she will be staying in Salisbury.
“My retirement date was going to be at the end of April,” she said. “Once both of our houses sold, that kind of moved everything up.”
Steele and Flowers have known each other for about three years, and a time when they were both ill brought them closer.
“I think she’s a great addition to the community, and she’s touched a lot of lives in the time she’s been here,” Steele said.
The board leadership has not started its search for a new director, Flowers said. Until a permanent replacement is found, CEO Jamie Morgan will serve as interim director.
“Getting to know the community is the main thing,” she said. “The new director will have to be heavily involved with the community.”
Esther Marsh, associate executive director and health and fitness director, said Flowers has a talent for helping people grow.
“We work well together because of where our vision is going with the YMCA,” she said. “She’s always been super supportive of everything moving forward, and I’ve always been that way too.”
Flowers allows her staff to be creative and is open to new ideas, Marsh said. She said that trusting relationship with Flowers and co-workers is what has kept her at the YMCA instead of a private fitness center.
“I think she’s the best boss I ever had,” Marsh said. “We’ve become a real family here.”
Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.