WINCHESTER — After more than two years without someone at the helm, the Youth Development Center has a new executive director.
Nancy Tilson Sinback was hired by the YDC board of directors and began her new job on November 1.
“I’m in transition,” Sinback said in an interview last week at the YDC at 3 Battaile Drive in Winchester. “I currently work for Dave Holliday (who owns an eponymous construction company in Winchester and has been a major benefactor of the YDC). He’s one of my favorite people on the planet and I hate giving that up, so I’ll see if I can do both for a while. He doesn’t want me to leave, but he loves the YDC, so he wants to see me help him.”
While Sinback is optimistic about pulling double duty, he’s also realistic enough to know that running a nonprofit that provides recreation, entertainment and educational opportunities for youth in Winchester and Frederick County is a job full time.
The demands could be even greater when she implements some programs she has been thinking about for the past decade while serving as secretary of the center’s board of directors.
Sarah Frey, YDC board chair, said working closely with Sinback behind the scenes made it clear to her and the other directors that she was the best person to fill the vacant CEO position.
“She was already running things as an operations manager on a volunteer basis,” Frey said. “We’ve tried to look for (CEO candidates) in the past and never found the right fit, and we weren’t going to try to fit a square peg into a round hole. “We were really looking for the right fit for the organization.”
“You can go to her with anything,” Tyrus Thomas, vice president of the YDC board of directors, said of Sinback. “She’s been refreshing.”
For 23 years, from 1995 to 2018, the YDC did not have to worry about having an executive director. That’s because the position was held by Regina O’Brien, whose name became so synonymous with the center that the board named a portion of the building in her honor when she retired.
O’Brien was replaced by LaTasha Do’zia, who served as CEO for a year and a half beginning in August 2018. When Do’zia resigned, she said she believed the board held her to a higher standard than her predecessor, and she believed race was a factor.
In October 2020, Elaine Lassiter was named executive director of the YDC. Eight months later, Lassiter resigned, alleging that she had a toxic relationship with some board members.
The YDC board denied allegations of racial bias and inappropriate treatment. But Frey said last week that after Lassiter left in June 2021, the board did some introspection and reassessment.
“We have a very diverse board of directors with many different perspectives,” Frey said. “Our board is strongly committed to the youth of our area.”
For nearly two and a half years, the board took responsibility for managing the YDC on its own until it could determine the best way forward.
“Our board is divided, especially with Nancy’s involvement,” Frey said. “That’s why she was our ideal choice for CEO.”
Hiring Sinback was one of the last things Frey will do during his tenure as board president. Her two-year term will end at the end of December and she will be replaced by Thomas.
“He has big plans that are doable, so it’s just a matter of the board contributing, which everyone does,” Sinback said.
Those plans, he said, are aimed at revitalizing the YDC and bringing back adults who enjoyed spending time there as teenagers.
“We are starting (adult) bingo here and that will raise substantial funds for us,” Sinback said. “There will be no alcohol or anything, just bingo and food.”
Bingo players will be allowed to bring their children, he added, and the YDC will have separate activities for them.
Additionally, Sinback said, the YDC intends to launch its own esports program so kids can play organized, competitive video games. The board has already raised about $8,000 to launch it in the coming months.
“We’re going to try to partner with Handley High School … and have their kids mentor students starting in elementary school,” he said, noting there have already been conversations with the coach of Handley’s esports team, Scott Braithwaite. . “Once this is up and running, we will add high school students (to the esports program).”
“There’s a lot of excitement around esports,” Thomas said, noting that the Winchester Elks Club has already made a donation to purchase video game consoles.
Other planned additions at the YDC, Sinback said, include an after-school program where children can come to the center and receive free tutoring, and a life skills program for teens that teaches them how to dress and interact with others to have a good life. impress and get a job.
“And we’re going to bring back the dances of my youth for teenagers and high schools,” Frey said. “I spent every Friday night of my youth here.”
Additionally, Frey said, the YDC hopes to resurrect the Teen Center program it operated in the 1980s.
“We just have to make sure we can attract teenagers,” Sinback said. “Teens today are very different from those back then. “There was no electronics then.”
Bingo, Teen Center, after-school tutoring, life skills program and teen dances are expected to begin in late winter or early spring. Sinback said the esports program could launch sooner, depending on when the YDC purchases video game consoles.
“We have a lot of ideas percolating and I think the board is really on board,” Sinback said. “I really believe in the mission of the YDC.”
The YDC was established in 1990 to provide educational, recreational and enrichment activities for youth in the northern Shenandoah Valley. Activities are available for children of all levels, including those with special needs. For more information, visit myydc.org.