A New Vision in New Orleans


April, 2017


They say New Orleans is a city of “Sin and Salvation”.  While there is an abundance of churches and religious faith runs deep, a trip down the famous Bourbon Street is a reminder that there is an undercurrent of excess that often leads down a road of questionable morality.

In the midst of this city there are two YMCA associations. The Dryades YMCA is the historic “black” Y, while the YMCA of Greater New Orleans is the traditional “white” Y. Over the years of their long history, the two associations have had a polite but separate existence. But a new vision is being lived out by the CEOs and their leadership teams.

Greg Phillips grew up in New Orleans, attending Xavier University there and starting a career in the YMCA. That career took him to Baltimore where he served as an Executive Director at an inner city Y.  A few years ago, the opportunity came for him to return to his roots as COO and then CEO of the Dryades YMCA.

Another New Orleans native, Gordon Wadge, had become a fixture in the New Orleans community as the Executive Director of Catholic Charities and serving on numerous boards and committees throughout the city.  When Katrina hit, Gordon and his team were on the ground, leading efforts to serve the devastated population. Three years ago, Gordon was convinced to accept the position as CEO of the YMCA of Greater New Orleans.

Greg and Gordon have been working to strengthen their associations and find ways to better serve their communities. They are breaking down the wall between their YMCAs and beginning to look for ways to serve their members and the larger community together. The motivation for much of this comes from the core convictions they hold in common that are rooted in their personal faith.

While the C in their YMCAs has not been particularly visible in the past, both associations are working hard now to change that! In a recent visit with Larry Whittlesey, both leaders were excited to learn how they can be a part of this growing Christian movement within the Y. They are taking specific steps to increase the expression of our Christian history and heritage in their Ys. They are looking for ways to partner with churches and other faith-based organizations to bring Christ-oriented programs into their buildings.

The future is bright for the Y in New Orleans. With strong Christian leaders like Gordon and Greg, these changes are more than just a superficial nod to the Y’s history. Real change is happening! Gordon sees his job as a ministry and Greg is purposely building a coalition of strong Christian leaders to help him increase their impact in the community. These two men are working together because they believe God has brought them together for this purpose. There’s a new vision in New Orleans—and it’s pretty exciting!