Eric Kress, Executive Director of the Waukee YMCA and long-time community organizer and volunteer, has been named Waukee’s 2018 Citizen of the Year by Mayor Bill Peard.
Kress began working at the Waukee YMCA in 2002 as the Youth Program Director. Several years and positions later within the Y, he moved to Waukee in 2007 with his family. In 2019, he became the Executive Director.
Local photographer Terry Snyder, Executive Director of the Waukee Leadership Institute and 2014 Waukee Citizen of the Year, nominated Kress, whom she’s known for 15 years.
“Eric is a very easy-going person,” said Snyder. “He can get along with anyone. And he’s fun, even though he’s a Cubs fan,” she joked. (Snyder is a diehard Cardinals fan.)
“Eric is the type of person where if you need something, he’ll be there for you if he can,” she said. “He’s always there to volunteer and works well with others. He’s very involved in coaching his girls’ basketball and softball leagues and does Girls on the Run, a YMCA sponsored event, with his daughter.”
In addition to his community work through the YMCA, Kress served on the Waukee Area Chamber of Commerce Board for several years and currently sits on the Waukee Betterment Foundation Board. He’s given his time as a Sunday school teacher, volunteered as a youth sports coach, packed meals for Meals from the Heartland and helped with the Blank Children’s Hospital Festival of Trees and Lights.
Kress said the accomplishment of which he is most proud is watching the youth he’s worked with grow into young adults.
“I think of the families I’ve gotten to know, and it’s so rewarding to see those kids prospering as adults, contributing to our community or being successful elsewhere. You don’t always know the outcome when you work with youth—whether you made a difference or not,” he said. “When you know it pays off, or when they look back on their childhood and remember you, that feels awesome. It makes me proud to have had a part in that.”
Kress and his wife, Danielle, a kindergarten teacher at Grant Ragan Elementary, have two daughters—Lilah, 10, and Jillian, 8. In their free time, they like to stay active. Kress said some of their favorites include watching baseball together (especially the Chicago Cubs), riding their bikes to get ice cream, and playing sports.
His advice for others who feel called to make an impact in the community? Don’t wait to be asked.
“Keep your eyes and ears open and take the initiative,” he said. “Recognize your skill sets, whatever they may be—from gardening to accounting skills for a non-profit. There are so many great organizations in our community. There’s a place for you.”
Kress was presented with a Key to the City during a public open house reception on Wednesday, April 24 at the Waukee Community Center. He will also be recognized as Citizen of the Year while riding in Waukee’s Fourth of July parade.