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Ridgewood Y director knows community service

Photo by Anthony Giudice

As the executive director of the Ridgewood YMCA, Lakeisha Harris knows what it means to serve her community.

Serving the community comes naturally to Harris, having earned her master’s degree in social work.

“I have always been interested in giving back to children and families … and it’s exciting to be able to do it in Ridgewood, Glendale, Middle Village and the communities that we serve,” Harris said. “That’s why I became a social worker to begin with, is to work in the community and be able to provide needed services to people who are unable, for whatever reason, to provide it themselves.”

Harris credited her mother for being her inspiration for getting into social work. Having worked hard to be where she is today, Harris emulates her mother and her work ethics.

“Because of what she went through is why I decided to be a social worker to begin with, to really help other kids and families who might also be struggling and need some encouragement, some support to get through. I think I’ve been able to do the things I’ve been able to do because of her,” Harris said of her mother.

“She’s just really resilient, really strong, and really passionate,” she added. “I still emulate her and when I get to be her age, I want to be where she is.”

One of the challenges Harris faces as executive director of the Ridgewood Y is having “high expectations.”

“I think the organization has high expectations and I think it’s making those expectations happen with limited resources,” she said.

But meeting those challenges leads to great success. Seeing and hearing the success stories of the people who use the Y is one of the best parts of her job, Harris said.

Being a prominent woman of color in the community, Harris said, “I love that we have Black History Month. It’s definitely an opportunity for me to hear more about what black people have done.”

“I definitely hope that what I do at the Y is an example for other brown and black children,” Harris said. As a mother, Harris hopes that her son is informed of the people of color who have done amazing things in the past, and even today.

Tucked away off Fresh Pond Road at 69-02 64th St., the Ridgewood Y (formerly known as the Catalpa YMCA) has been there since 1931 and previously served as the Queens County Magistrate’s Courthouse. The YMCA of Greater New York purchased the building from the city in 1965.

Renovations were made to the building in 2011, transforming it into a state-of-the-art facility complete with a gym, an early childhood educational facility and other amenities.

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