SHERIDAN — Fierce. Intelligent. Forthcoming. Those are all words that could be used to describe 37-year-old Jennifer Fenton.
She works as the program director for the Sheridan County YMCA and has lived in Sheridan for 12 years.
Fenton heads up the aquatics programs at the YMCA and has, as a result, been heavily involved in the organization’s plans and preparations for the new aquatics center. The YMCA is currently raising money for the project.
“Work is probably my largest contact to the community,” Fenton said. “I don’t have to go much further than that to encounter any number of community needs that I can help out with.”
Fenton’s coworkers agree with her ability to help.
“Jennifer is an amazing employee for the Y,” said Diane Ballek, associate executive director for the YMCA. “She is a mover and shaker and is the first to step up and say ‘Let it be me!’ when we are looking for someone to lead an endeavor. She performs at a high level and always with a smile on her face. As demanding as her work can be, Jennifer is first and foremost, an amazing wife and mother to her four children. She is able to find balance between family and work while performing at a high level at both.”
Ballek noted that when asked what she likes most about her job, Fenton will get glassy-eyed as she shares how much she enjoys watching the senior ladies interact with each other in their pool classes and how much they remind her of her grandmother. Or, she’ll note how much energy she absorbs from the little kids as they march onto the pool deck anxious for their swim lessons and smiling ear to ear. Maybe, too, she’ll share how heart-warming it is to know the YMCA has impacted her children or talk about a group of ladies who met at the YMCA decades ago, have become close friends and are there for each other through good times and bad.
“Jennifer believes the Y allows her to touch every segment of the community and she values the opportunity she has to give back by supporting and encouraging others of all ages and abilities,” Ballek said. “Jennifer is truly a joy to work with. I value her as an employee and more importantly as a friend.”
But Fenton does go outside the YMCA to help build the Sheridan community.
She is active in her church parish council, volunteers with home-delivered meals and helps out in the schools with her children. She is also on the steering committee for Leadership Sheridan County and is participating in the 2016 CiViC Leadership project.
“We are blessed to live in an absolutely amazing place,” Fenton said. “I know everyone always says that, but coming from a place outside of Sheridan, growing up and going to school in places outside of Sheridan, visiting and spending time in places outside of Sheridan makes you realize how true that statement really is.”
She added that she can’t help but be a little jealous of her children, who have the opportunity to grow up with YMCA summer camps, sledding down the hill at Kendrick Mansion, bike riding on pathways and playing in beautiful parks while getting ice cream and swimming next to buffalo.
“We have a system of teachers and supportive adults for our youth that astounds me continually,” Fenton added. “The numbers of people in this town that take ownership and contribute to the amazing community that this is inspire me to jump right in and be a part of that.”
That’s not nothing for a woman with four children and a full-time job. Those things mean time is precious, so Fenton said she chooses what to be involved in carefully.
Luckily for Sheridan, she has the energy to make it all happen.