Lil Bardon: Y stalwart approaches two decades of service
As one of the YMCAs of South Collier, Marco Y welcome desk staffer Lil Bardon makes a point of trying to remember the names and nicknames of everybody.
"It's a bit difficult now with the masks, though," said Bardon, eyes smiling over her own mask. She's been one of the Y lobby stalwarts for the past 18 years.
Out of season, Bardon greets about 100 Y members as they walk in to go to the gym, participate in organized activities, utilize clinical services, drop their children off at preschool or head for the ever-popular pool.
In season, that number of greetings increases three- and four-fold as the kids, the parents, the retirees and the staff come through the doors.
Before joining the Y nearly two decades ago, she had a long career with the Social Service Administration, progressing through the ranks to managerial status.
Her Y tasks include not only welcoming members and visitors, but also promoting new memberships, highlighting available programs and, importantly, she says, trying to make everyone feel part of a unique family.
"I want people to want to be here," said the former New Yorker, who has traveled the world in her time, some of it on an oceangoing sailboat with her husband Ken.
"It's about forming relationships with all sorts of people.
"People come here for a purpose," she said. "Some parents need pre-schooling for the children and they're delighted when we have a slot.
"Some have just moved here and don't know anybody, some are widows or widowers, and this is a sociable place. Some want to play tennis on our first class courts. Some want to swim in our beautiful pool. Some people love that they can work out after traditional hours in our 24-hour cardio area. We're about community, and all types of people with all types of interests feel we're there for them. I think it works."
In Bardon's case, it sure does, said CEO Cindy Love-Abounader.
"Over the years, Lil has developed a nice relationship with our members. She is dedicated to the members to help them navigate the best programs for them," Love-Abounader said.
"The Y is in the people business and the Y experience starts at the welcome desk. Lil is known for delivering quality customer service beginning from the time you walk in the door. She helps our constituents feel welcomed, safe, and have a sense of belonging with a strong connection to our community."
Bardon says she picked up the job through a mutual tennis-playing friend in the early days, and that ironically that same friend - Ann Homes, who had been away for some time - recently rejoined the Y.
"She came back on my 18th anniversary," said Bardon.
One other vital aspect of the Y, she says, is community outreach programs for disadvantaged families and their kids.
"We don't turn people away," she said, "we believe the Y is a place where kids should be."
For more on the Y's wide variety of programs and activities for adults and children, visit marcoymca.org or call 394-YMCA (9622). Follow on Twitter at ymcamarco; on Facebook @marcoymca, and Instagram at ymcamarco.