Volunteer Spotlight: Bill Markwat

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Bill Markwat looks like your ordinary YMCA member. He comes in with his headphones and his towel for sweat. He checks in with a smile on his face before heading into the wellness center. What I see is very different. I see someone that is full of love and dedication to his community and the children in it. I see someone that would bend over backwards to see a YMCA program succeed. This means Bill is an exemplary volunteer. Not only does he show up, but he also represents all that the YMCA stands for.

I had the pleasure of working with Bill during the last season of Y Splash here at the Corpening Memorial YMCA in McDowell County. In our program, we teach drowning prevention and water safety to every second grader in McDowell County. Bill has a passion for water sports and involving everyone with aquatics. He currently lives on Lake James and utilizes his boat and canoe. In my program, he teaches the children how to properly put on a lifejacket, how to enter and exit a canoe, and where you should go if you find yourself in the middle of water with nothing to float on. 54 percent of adults cannot swim, let alone understand mechanics of boats, canoes, or kayaks. Having someone as experienced and well versed as Bill is not only important, but it is also vital in teaching McDowell County second graders how to be safe when using this equipment. Bill is patient, especially with the children. He is the first to ask how they feel about entering the water and how it is okay to be a little timid. Without this care and compassion, the program simply would not work. Bill shows up early to make sure all the materials have been gathered, puts the canoe into the pool, and even checks the other volunteers to ensure they have everything they need as well. Bill has worked time and time again in years passed on how to make our program better and has new and better ideas every time I get the pleasure of speaking with him. As a coordinator, honesty is not always easy to hear, but with Bill, I take it to heart and know he is coming from a place of love.

I came from a workplace that wasn’t as welcome to my demographic. As a young woman in a leadership role, my ideals took a backseat to other voices. I found it hard to gain respect from other employees of the older and opposite sex. Bill came into my program with an understanding that this was my first opportunity at the YMCA to show my specific skills and that I wanted to prove my capabilities. He not only relied on my direction, he respected it and admired it. He realized what he was doing was a direct reflection of my aptitude as a director and a reflection of the YMCA’s capabilities towards our community. Aside from this understanding, Bill is friendly and flexible. When he stepped onto the pool deck, he hit the ground running and was able to delve into whatever was thrown his way. He treated everyone with respect and dignity. He understood when he signed up to be a volunteer that his responsibility did not begin and end when he got out of the pool.