WINSTON-SALEM — For more than two decades, Richard “Rick” French supported the mission and vision of the YMCA of Northwest North Carolina (NWNC) through his quiet and influential involvement at the Alexander County Family YMCA. The YMCA of NWNC is honored to induct French, posthumously, into the Red Triangle Society, as he lost a courageous battle with cancer on December 24, 2022. The Red Triangle Society, created in 2002, is the highest honor a YMCA volunteer can receive. Recipients demonstrate long-term and significant commitment, enthusiasm, and dedication to the YMCA mission.
French was more than a board member – he was a visionary who made an impact on everything he was involved in. He led the branch relocation efforts, supported annual and capital fundraising efforts, organized races, advocated for the Y across the community, and had the ability to connect with others that positioned the Y and its programs for success across the entire community.
“Without a doubt, Rick understood the importance of the Y to the community and exemplified its mission of helping all people reach their God-given potential,” said Alexander County Family YMCA Executive Director Christy Harrington. “He encouraged and motivated everyone he encountered to strive for their very best, including me. He was a true mentor to me personally and professionally sharing his love of running, the Y, our community, and God.”
Serving as a county manager in Alexander County for nearly 24 years, he combined his passion for local government and the Y by implementing a strong and ongoing partnership between the Y and Alexander County. Through his efforts, county employees received access to the Y at a discounted rate while the county provided monthly support and operational services like mowing, trash pickup, and maintenance contracts to the branch.
French also helped with fundraising efforts by speaking with potential donors, researching grants, and providing personal donations. While serving on the Alexander County Family YMCA board for over 13 years and during his 10 years as board chair, he was available to brainstorm and discuss board development tactics as well as board member recruitment.
Being an avid runner and an experienced race director, French participated in many Y race events. Leading up to a race, he would promote the event to secure runners’ attendance and recruit volunteers to ensure it was an efficient and positive experience for all involved. On race day, he would keep time and assist wherever there was a need.
Over the years, French supported the growth of the Y, helping meet community needs with the addition of an outdoor track and soccer field. Following a flood that ruined the Y’s track in 2020, he aided in its repair by providing a workforce and other resources to ensure the track was repaired and safe for the community to enjoy. Additionally, he was involved in numerous conversations strategizing partnerships and funding opportunities that could result in the construction of a pool at the Y.
About the YMCA of Northwest North Carolina
The YMCA is one of the nation’s leading nonprofits strengthening communities through youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility. The YMCA of Northwest North Carolina engages more than 115,000 men, women, and children annually – regardless of age, income, or background – to nurture the potential of children and teens, improve the community’s health and well-being, and provide opportunities to give back and support neighbors. Anchored in communities across seven counties, the YMCA of NWNC has the long-standing relationships and physical presence not just to promise, but to deliver lasting personal and social change.