It’s Fun to Serve at the YMCA

From starting as a summer camp director 43 years ago to becoming an executive director, Bill Barringer has now made it his mission to help beautify Greenville’s YMCA camps and facilities

It’s a career that began over a dining room table 43 years ago. Bill Barringer, on the verge of both his wedding and graduating from college, answered an ad for a summer camp director position with the YMCA. He soon found himself sitting down for dinner with his soon-to-be mentor, surrounded by six children ranging from five to 15 years old. This wasn’t the kind of interview Barringer expected, but he passed with flying colors.

“‘If you can handle all these kids over dinner, you can handle the kids at camp,’” Barringer recalls his mentor telling him.

More than four decades and six positions later, Barringer is now the YMCA’s director of new facilities development. It may not have been a position he envisioned himself in, but his journey with the organization has certainly prepared him for it. After working as a summer camp director, he went on to develop programs for local high schoolers before taking on a youth director position.

With a career spanning YMCA organizations in Alabama, Texas, and South Carolina, Barringer eventually took on a bigger behind-the-scenes role as an associate executive director.

Later, he became vice president of operations for the YMCA of Greenville in South Carolina.

As the director of new facilities development, Barringer helps facilitate the creation of new YMCA centers and camps in his region, in addition to providing preventative maintenance for existing centers. And while it might seem as though he’s buried in contracts and blueprints all day, that’s not quite the case. Barringer still draws upon the sociability and relationship-building skills he refined when working with youth and his fellow counselors.

“It’s funny working in the facilities end of things, because it pretty much mirrors working with people,” Barringer says. “You’re dealing with contractors and architects and trying to develop those relationships. This is something I tell every general contractor I work with. We can find a general contractor, we can find a plumber, we can find a concrete road paver, but we want a partner in this. My motto’s always been: I can hire anybody, but I’m looking for a partner.”

This philosophy extends to the design of the structures that Barringer is helping to bring to life. Where, once upon a time, YMCA facilities all carried a similar architectural design—Barringer describes them as “a couple of boxes put together”—the facilities are now adopting more modern layouts. He describes one center that’s entirely open on the inside, a design he says creates a more communal experience for everyone.

“I think that’s one of the Y’s philosophies,” he says. “You come to the Y, you’re not just going to the gym, you’re going to build relationships. You’re going to be in a healthy environment.”

These facilities are larger in comparison to the facilities of yesteryears. “Y’s were much smaller years ago,” he says. “Now you’re getting pretty large, 80,000–100,000-square-foot buildings that are able to accommodate more people. That’s a good thing.”

It’s also a necessary one. To illustrate this, Barringer points to a new project he’s working to develop on the east side of Greenville. “We have a facility there now,” Barringer says. “It’s currently about 40,000 square feet, but we need a 70,000–80,000-square-foot-building. The demand is so great.”

Rather than build an entirely new facility, however, Barringer says he and his team plan on rebuilding on-site, keeping portions of the original structure while tearing down others and rebuilding atop it. It’s an approach the YMCA has used before to great success. The project is still in the development stage, but he hopes to remodel it in the mold of other, more modern facilities, with an abundance of communal areas situated alongside the pool and gym.

One of Barringer’s projects that’s currently in progress is a complete remodel of YMCA Camp Greenville and its waterfront, which encompasses both Lake Rotary and Lake Sudie.

“We’ve really put a concerted effort in the last four or five years to redo the camp so it will be here for another 60–100 years,” he explains.

While the remodel will include work in terms of equipment and guest facilities, the area first needed an infrastructural overhaul. “We put in a complete sewer and water system throughout the whole facility,” Barringer says. “That’s 1,600 acres we had to cover. Obviously, no one will ever see it, but it’s part of the camp’s sustainability.”

Sustainability has been a major facet of Barringer’s process of late. For him, it’s about sturdy, simple materials that can withstand any storm, such as cinder block, concrete, and metal fortified walls and roofs. His buildings are also abound with glass and windows that allow for as much natural light as possible. Also, the pools will no longer use the abrasive chemicals of yesteryear.

Barringer keeps up with the facilities and areas he’s had a hand in building on social media, but his career satisfaction doesn’t rest solely on his work. “I think the most notable projects are the relationships I worked to build with all the people I met along the way,” he says.

He recalls visiting his grandson’s school in Birmingham, Alabama, and discovering that the principal was a young woman who, decades before, had been involved in one of his programs.

“She told me how much the Y and its programs had meant to her,” Barringer recalls. “I hadn’t see her in 30 years. That brought back memories.”

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As a trusted builder for five decades, First Victory Inc is proud of our long-term relationships with owners of projects that excite our passion for building. An office in Western NC headquarters our Camping Division where we look forward to continuing our relationships with clients like YMCA Camp Greenville and Bill Barringer.