Skaro Stabilizes Palisades-Malibu YMCA

Shelly Skaro came aboard as the acting Palisades-Malibu YMCA executive director in December and by February had been named as the permanent director.

                Her enthusiasm about the community came out in an April interview. “We want people to know the Y is here to serve them,” Skaro said. “We want to partner with residents.”

                Although she now commutes from Reseda to the Palisades every day, she grew up in Seatac, an outlying suburb of Seattle. The town name is a combination of the first syllables of Seattle and Tacoma and its boundaries surround the Seattle-Tacoma Inter- national Airport.

                As a child her emphasis was on dance; starting with tap, then ballet, jazz and hip hop. “I was on the high school dance team and drill team,” Skaro said. “In college [Central Washington University] I was also on the dance team.”

                After graduating with a degree exercise science in 1998, she immediately found work as the wellness director for McKinster Company, which specializes in HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning). “It was a great center and we had onsite classes before work and at lunch,” she said, noting it was also open to the surrounding business community.

                But Skaro felt as if she was missing the opportunity to interact with kids and seniors, so when the Seatac YMCA offered her a full-time job as the fitness director in 2002, she jumped at the chance.

                Skaro had also discovered Zumba and taught it for many years at the Y. “Group exercises are strength-oriented and classes like step are linear, but Zumba is about rhythm,” She said. “A lot of people are afraid to try it because they say, “I can’t dance,” but she counters “You learn to let go. It’s such a release, it’s freeing.”

                When her son Jordan was accepted as a freshman engineering student at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in 2013, Skaro decided to move away from her childhood home and start anew in California, because of the “beautiful weather and beautiful scenery.”

                She became the associate executive director of the West Valley YMCA (about 7,000 members) in Reseda. By contrast, the Palisades YMCA has about 2,000 members.

                Since arriving in the Palisades, “We’ve revamped the equipment and are making sure the facility is kept in the best shape we can,” said Skaro who works closely with membership director Francesca LaPosta, community outreach Kia Green and sports director Oscar Rodriguez. “We want to bring people together and work with the rest of the organizations in town to see how we can best partner with them.”

                To that end, the Palisades Rotary Club and YMCA hosted a Chamber of Commerce mixer on April 7. Then on Sunday, April 24, the Y partnered with the Palisades Optimist Club to host the 44th Annual Youth Track Meet at Palisades High.

                On April 30, the Y held a Healthy Kids Day at Simon Meadow from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. “This was a day for the community to have fun,” Skaro said. “It was also a way for residents to learn more about our programs and our summer camp.”

                She has met several times with former Palisades Y Director Carol Pfannkuche. “It’s such a blessing to have her still connected with the Y,” Skaro said.

                One of her favorite activities when she isn’t working is hiking. “There are so many beautiful ones,” she said. “I just went on the Corral Canyon Road hike [in Malibu].”

                Combining her hobby with her job, Skaro is working on plans for family hikes in Temescal Canyon.

                She is open to other possibilities. “If there is a group of moms or residents who would like a particular class, come see us. I want this to be the hub of the community so that anyone who comes here feels welcomed and like they belong. We truly want people to feel that this is their Y.”

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