Jessica Durham, Director of Marketing and Special Events for the La Porte County Family YMCA, exudes passion and love for her community. Born and raised in La Porte, Durham cultivated a connection to her city growing up and added her own family roots to her hometown when she became a stay-at-home mom. Durham loved life at home with her children, but when a position opened up at the YMCA, she knew she couldn’t pass it up.
“I grew up as a ‘Y’ kid,” Durham said. “I always loved the Y and its mission as a community-based organization that really gives back. That’s what drew me in five years ago, and that’s what keeps me here now.”
Durham started as Executive Assistant to CEO Laurie Halaska, who would come to have a major impact on her life.
“I can’t say enough good things about Laurie,” Durham said. “She values her employees and encourages us to work hard and have a good work-life balance. In the past two years, she has really pushed me to get out of my comfort zone and do things I normally wouldn’t, which is so liberating.”
Knowing she has an opportunity to positively impact the community fuels Durham’s passion for her work.
“I love working with people in our community,” Durham said. “I feel the community as a whole has a lot of lofty goals to keep improving, and the Y wants to be a part of that.”
Durham finds inspiration for her own growth through the leaps the Y continues to make, and 2020 promises to be an exciting year.
“We're at record high membership with over 8,400 members and continuing to grow,” Durham said. “We’re also taking on the Tour de La Porte this year, an event that really aligns with our mission to promote healthy living in our community. We have some very exciting things in the works and can't wait to start rolling them out!”
With an exciting and influential year ahead, Durham is more ready than ever to embrace her role at the Y, and she knows this means taking the organization’s mission to heart every day.
“There’s a phrase we use at work, ‘Check it at the door,’” Durham said. “It’s a reminder to keep looking at our bigger picture, and a lot of times, that means leaving personal life, ego, and other distractions at the door. We serve a really big purpose in our line of work, and it’s important to be fully present to fill that need.”
Durham applies the same concept when she clocks out for the day, focusing on family time the moment she walks through her front door. For the Durhams, fun is just a fishing pole away, and the recent bursts of warm weather have them ready to answer nature’s call.
“My husband Jim and I love to hike the Indiana Dunes with our three kids, Adler, Molly, and Connor,” Durham said. “We love doing anything outdoors, whether it’s hiking at our favorite spot at Central Beach, camping, or fishing on Lake Michigan. Being home with my family is my absolute favorite place to be, but when we can transfer that to the outdoors, it’s even better.”
Durham seems to inhale positivity and exhale fear, overcoming life’s obstacles with grace and courage, an art embodied in one of her favorite quotes: 'It will never be perfect. Make it work.'
“A few years ago, I had a lot of personal things going on, including the loss of my dad,” Durham said. “My world turned upside down for a bit, but in that process, I realized that although you don’t have the power to control what happens in life, you do have the power to make the best of it. We say this quote a lot in my house, and that’s what I strive to do every day.”