New Leader Guides Local YMCA Amid Trying Times

Devon Corlew

A big development for the South Pasadena San Marino YMCA facility — that it would finally reopen on a limited capacity — ended nearly as soon as it began on Monday, with an order from Gov. Gavin Newsom to once again close gym facilities because of a resurgence of COVID-19 cases.
The other news — that Devon Corlew is here as the new executive director of the local branch, as well as the Pasadena Sierra Madre YMCA — is here to stay, however.
“While we’re saddened to have to close our doors yet again, the safety of our members is our top priority,” Corlew said in an emailed comment. “We will be following the guidelines of state and local officials as to when it is safe to reopen. In the meantime, as a nonprofit organization we’ll continue to support our community in new ways as everyone continues to work through this pandemic. We look forward to seeing everyone back at the Y when we are able to reopen.”
Corlew is starting her tenure as executive director of the area YMCA after moving over from the same role at the Culver-Palms Family YMCA in Culver City. She replaces Rick Politte, who held the executive director role for four years before recently stepping down. Corlew has spent 15 years with the YMCA of Metropolitan Los Angeles organization.
“I’d worked with Rick for years and we collaborated on a lot of projects,” she said in a phone interview. “I got to spend some time with him before leaving, so I got to pick his brain a bit. He did a lot of great work here, and I’m looking forward to building upon that.”
Corlew grew up in the Bay Area and moved to Southern California to study at Biola University, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in business administration and management; she later earned her master’s degree in business administration from Cal State Bakersfield. She added that her husband’s family lived in the Pasadena-South Pasadena area and she frequently visited the area.
“Throughout the years, we would always take trips to visit family out here and check out local spots to eat,” she added. “It was a lot of memories with family out here.”
As for the rise of COVID-19, Corlew acknowledged that the pandemic will certainly shape the way the YMCA functions and the programs it offers, but said people will need their community organizations to help them navigate the remainder of the pandemic.
The YMCA had been closed since Los Angeles County implemented its initial Safer at Home directive in mid-March, when the COVID-19 pandemic forced mass closures throughout the nation. Though Newsom and L.A. County had spent much of June scaling back restrictions, the governor imposed them again in recent weeks as the disease case count has alarmingly boomed.
In an earlier interview, before Newsom’s order suddenly pulled the rug out from under her, Corlew looked forward to the unique challenge of running a community institution when we’re not exactly supposed to be socializing the way we’re used to.
“It’ll look a little different from before, but our doors will be open,” she said at the time. “Even though it’s a challenging time for our community as a whole, I think the Y has a unique opportunity to serve our communities in unique ways. I think our communities are going to need the Y more than ever before. To be able to shoulder that burden along with our terrific board and volunteers, that excites me, and I’m looking forward to serving the communities in that way.”
Politte, reached by phone, said he agreed with Corlew’s assessment of the YMCA’s importance to the community, especially now.
“One of the things that the Y does is that it brings people of all backgrounds together,” he said. “The Y kind of crosses all boundaries, whether age or religion or what country you come from. We connect everybody together and we do it well.”
Politte added that the South Pasadena San Marino YMCA, which was launched in 1914, was in good hands with Corlew.
“What I see in her is energy and dedication, being really enthused about serving the community,” he said.