An interview with Melissa DeSalvo, Volunteer and Organizational Coordinator of the Madison YMCA, gives you an inside look into the Madison community!
What are you responsible for in your position?: “In my position, I am responsible for a variety of tasks and having the opportunity to take on many roles makes the job fun and rewarding. My first responsibility is recruiting, onboarding and managing volunteers for our organization. I am in charge of managing and overseeing the volunteers and ensuring that each department has the proper number of volunteers to fill needs. I mentor volunteers, ensure they are completing their required number of service hours and serve as a reference and point person for them. I am also continuously looking for new ways to make the Madison Area YMCA community aware about volunteer opportunities at the Y. I take advantage of the opportunity to go to Career Fairs at the local universities and am constantly networking in order to make as many people as I can aware of the Y and its mission and opportunities to get involved.
The other part of my position involves fundraising. I am part of the Development Department, where I primarily manage special fundraising events, such as our annual golf event that brings in over $90,000 to support helping send local children to Madison Area YMCA summer camp. In this capacity, I do everything from securing the venue and picking the menus, to securing sponsorships, to soliciting auction items. I manage other fundraising events the Y holds as well, and the best part about these events is seeing where they start and where they finish. All of the money raised from these events goes directly towards the Madison Area YMCA’s Annual Support Fund, which helps support children, families and seniors in our community so that they can partake in the Y, regardless of their abilities to pay. I get to meet so many different people and form many different and new relationships in this capacity. I also work with a great team here. The staff at the Y and the team I am a part of are wonderful and supportive, so it makes me enjoy coming to work every day. I love meeting new people, helping people and talking about all the great things the Y does and has to offer, so this is the perfect role for me to do that.”
What do you wish Drew students knew about resources available for them in Madison?: I wish Drew students knew more about how the Y can really serve as a resource for them. Many of our volunteers are Drew students and many of our employees as well. The Y is not just a gym and a place to swim-it’s a community and a cause. There are other local organizations like the Y as well that students can get involved with. Local organizations love to get college students involved and are always looking for volunteers, so go out there take a look at what is available. There is undoubtedly something that is a good fit for you
What’s your favorite part of the Madison community?: I love the Madison community and how it is so close knit. I grew up in Madison and went through the public school system here. Working at the Y, I run into many people I knew from growing up and it’s amazing how things come full circle and we connect again. My high school Spanish teacher exercises here at the Y and I see her several times a week. Who would have thought we would cross paths again?! I love how welcoming Madison is. I love that there is always a community event taking place. Madison is always hosting something- a parade, Bottle Hill Day, May Day, concerts, fundraisers, visits from Santa during the holiday and the list goes on. The best part is that these are things I grew up with too. It’s nice to see the traditions continue. I also think it is commendable that our community teams up to do fundraisers for local residents when they are in need. When one person in our community needs help, a hundred more hands jump in. That is pretty special. I always feel a true sense of togetherness and community. Madison is my home but the people and the community really make it feel like home. I’m proud and lucky to be part of it.
What does the YMCA offer for Drew students? Why should they be interested?: The YMCA offers so many opportunities for Drew and other university students. We offer volunteering opportunities, employment opportunities, discounts on memberships, and most importantly in my book, a place to feel like you belong. Students should be interested in the Y because, as I mentioned earlier, the Y is not just a “gym and swim.” The Y is a place that students can belong and be themselves. The Y has something for everyone and I encourage students to just take a chance and visit. They will likely learn something new about the Y, its programs and all it has to offer.
What is your best advice for getting involved in the on and off campus communities?: My best advice for getting involved on and off campus is to just get out there and explore. There is so much out there and so many people to connect with. You never know where an opportunity can lead. I encourage students to go to the career fairs, connect with alumni, volunteer and network, network, network. Relationships don’t form in a day. They take time and work. Put yourself out there and do things to gain experience and build your resume. Build your personal brand and find ways to get involved.
What’s your favorite place to eat in Madison?: My favorite place to eat in Madison. Tough choice! But, I have to say, I’ve become a big sushi fan over the past few years and Blue Wazabi always hits the spot. Their Summer Blossom roll is my favorite.
Is there a hidden gem in the Madison area?: Madison has so many hidden gems. There are so many great small businesses and restaurants and I love that many of them are family owned. Sometimes I forget how many great businesses Madison really has. Madison is also so historic and there’s so much history in a lot of the buildings and homes. Next time you are in town on Main Street, look at the very top of building at 14 Main Street, kind of across from the Museum of Early Trades and Crafts at the traffic light. You’ll see where the Madison Area YMCA used to be years ago. I love sharing that fun fact because most people never notice it. After you see it, come stop by the current Madison Area YMCA on Kings Road. We would love to have you!
Now that you know a little more about Madison, take your knowledge to the streets and learn more about the vibrant community outside of Drew’s campus!
Thank you to Caitlin Shannon for reaching out to me and featuring me in this article. I am humbled to have been asked to be part of this and appreciate Caitlin’s efforts immensely. I am so fortunate to have developed the partnership I have with Drew University through working at the Madison Area YMCA and look forward to continued opportunities to work with Drew students, faculty and staff. With appreciation, Melissa DeSalvo