Vice-President of Association Services, YMCA of Greater Vancouver
This profile was originally published in the Sept/Oct 2013 issue of CPABC in Focus magazine.
Mention you’re a curling fan to Marnie Jepsen, and her face lights up with excitement.
“Curling has been very good to me,” she says. “I’ve been able to travel and compete, and it has been a great way to meet friends. It’s a very social sport.”
Marnie, who once competed at the national level and still curls on two teams, is now vice-chair of the board of governors at Curl BC. She considers it her way of giving back to a sport that has given her so much.
“Between everyone’s efforts, Curl BC now has a much clearer reporting of their financial statements in alignment with sport policy,” she says. “We’re trying to create more transparency and accountability in terms of funding.”
Marnie juggles her volunteer responsibilities with her day job at the YMCA, where she’s vice-president of association services—or, as she jokingly calls it, “Mission Control.” She and her team provide support services to the YMCA’s operations, covering finance, IT, and risk management.
For Marnie, the role is a perfect marriage of her interests.
“Originally, I wanted to run a rec centre,” she explains. “When I realized that it wasn’t a very lucrative field and might not be the most practical choice, I started looking at the business side of things. I chose to become an accountant because I liked applying the interpretation of the numbers, and helping people manage their businesses better with numbers.”
One of the innovative ways in which she has helped the YMCA put its numbers to work is by working on a partnership with condominium developer Concert Properties.
“Our downtown Y on Burrard Street was built in 1944, and needed upgrades,” says Marnie. “We found a community-minded partner in Concert Properties in 2003, and were able to make a deal: We would sell them density in the air and, in exchange, they would help construct our Y.”
Thus the “Patina” project was born. Concert Properties built a shared strata above the back corner of the new facilities, now known as the Robert Lee YMCA, and provided the YMCA with a cheque for $14.6 million after all the condos were sold.
“Both sides took risks, and we both knew there’d be upsides in which we’d be able to share,” says Marnie. “For the Y, it meant that we were able to get out of debt on that building and move forward on some of our other projects.”
Many of these projects are outlined in Focus 20/20, the strategic plan for the YMCA of Greater Vancouver.
“It outlines where we want to be in 2020, and how we see the world we want to be living in,” says Marnie.
This vision includes a much improved standard of living for children.
“We now have the first generation of children with a lower life expectancy than their parents,” she points out. “That’s really scary.”
To address this issue, the YMCA is focusing on helping vulnerable families, combating unhealthy lifestyles, and minimizing isolation.
“We’re working to create access and remove boundaries,” Marnie says.
She points to a study the YMCA recently conducted on the impact of its initiatives. While there is still some analysis left to be done, early results are exciting.
“The study is showing that if you belong to a YMCA, you’re more connected to your community, you’re more likely to vote, you’re more likely to know your neighbor, and you’re more likely to just be more engaged in your community,” says Marnie. “It’s neat to be able to show the actual impact we’re having in our community.”
That’s precisely why she finds her work with the charitable organization so rewarding.
“When I find a way to get some more money to the bottom line, that means more kids go to camp,” she says. “It means it means more kids can have childcare. It means we can offer more assistance.”
With that, Marnie breaks out another infectious smile.