Val England has been with the East Dallas YMCA professionally since 1981, but her relationship with the “Y” has deeper roots than that.

As a child, she swam in the East Dallas Y pool. As a teen-ager, she participated in “Y” teen clubs. Her first job was as a camp counselor for the “Y.”

England’s latest “Y” adventure is her promotion to executive director of the East Dallas branch. The previous director, Nora Tomlin, left to become the executive director of the White Rock-Lake Highlands branch.

“I have learned a lot from Val,” says Tomlin. “I am excited for her to use her many talents and skills.”

As the new director, England’s first priority will be meeting the “Chilton Challenge,” Bob Chilton’s pledge of $500,000 toward construction of a new facility if the “Y” can match the amount and begin construction before the end of the year.

“The opportunity to move to a new facility in such a short period of time is just incredible,” England says. “The biggest part of my job right now is working with our volunteers to match his pledge and make this dream come true.”

England is thankful for the team of long-term volunteers committed to the “Y,” many of which she has known since childhood.

England has a vision for the “Y” that extends well beyond the construction a new facility. Foremost among her interests is the establishment of more programs for teenagers.

“We have got to advocate for the kids and listen to what their needs are,” she says.

England would also like to see the expansion of family-coordinated activities, “where Mom can take her aerobics class, Dad can work out, and kids can take fitness classes” at the same time.

“We have to be a support for the families,” England says.

Although England and her volunteers are working hard to build a new center for the branch’s programs, there are many programs that will be unaffected by a change in location. The after-school day care programs, for example, will remain based at Lakewood and Hotchkiss elementary schools.

“We would rather do as many programs as we can in the community,” England says. For as committed as she is to the principles of the YMCA, England is equally dedicated to the area the East Dallas Y serves.

“I was born and raised near the Hillside shopping center,” she says, and both she and her husband graduated from Woodrow Wilson. “I am very partial to the East Dallas and Lakewood area.”

England hopes community outreach by the “Y” will influence children in the way she was influenced as a child.

“I wish every child could be touched by the ‘Y’ in some way,” England says. “Having had that experience myself, I really believe that the ‘Y’ has the tools to develop the body, mind and spirit.”

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