The YMCA’s Outreach Programs for Ahwatukee Seniors has a new leader.
He’s Mark Mansir, who retired from FedEx in August 2018, as director of business sales, leading a team of 150 employees in Phoenix and overseeing an area from Colorado west, including Alaska and Hawaii.
Mansir has donned the mantle of Y-OPAS director after former director Jill Sears was named senior program director at the Chandler/Gilbert Family YMCA.
Mansir and his wife Pam have lived in Ahwatukee since 2011, after moving to Arizona from Texas, where he was state director of field and inside sales for FedEx.
“My desire upon retiring from FedEx was to find a position where I could help people,” he said. “I started as a volunteer driver – they needed someone to drive the kids from school to after-school programs at the YMCA.
“I never expected this Y-OPAS position to open up, and this is part of my dream. I’m excited to be in a position where I can help so many in my community.”
Through Y-OPAS, a cadre of volunteers assists those 62 and older with a plethora of helpful services.
Those services include free transportation to appointments including post-appointment pharmacy stops, shopping assistance, once-a-week visits in their homes, reassurance phone calls from a volunteer with whom they make a personal connection, caregiver relief and household assistance for tasks like light bulb changing or air filter replacements as well as support for seniors when discharged from the hospital.
After Mansir learned he’d been selected as the next Y-OPAS Director, he began spending more time in their office located within the YMCA on Liberty Lane.
“I’m not the kind of person who says ‘okay, the job starts Nov. 4. I’ll see you then’,” he laughed. “I started going in, meeting people and getting to know the office.”
As of last August, Mansir has been a regular at the Ahwatukee Y, volunteering to drive students from Kyrene Monte Vista, Kyrene de la Estrella, Kyrene del Milenio and Altadena and Akimel A-al middle schools to the YMCA every day after school.
“Even though I’m Y-OPAS director, I’ll probably still be volunteering to drive them,” he smiled. “Drivers are always needed.”
“A servant leader” is how one FedEx employee described Mansir when he was at the Phoenix office of the international courier delivery services corporation.
His military service may have helped hone that skill.
“I was in the U.S. Army for eight-plus years and served in the Military Police, Armor and Aviation branches,” said Mansir. “I served as an AH-1s Attack Helicopter pilot and an instructor pilot on the UH-1 Huey.”
He recalled a special moment in Georgia. where, as an MP, he was assigned as security for then-President Jimmy Carter.
Mansir praised Sears for her work and dedication as Y-OPAS Director.
“She was invaluable to Y-OPAS over the years and she made the transition an easy one for me,” he said. “I know she will be missed by all, but we’re happy for her new position at the Chandler/Gilbert Family YMCA.”
A 19-year Ahwatukee resident, Sears volunteered at Y-OPAS before being named director. Prior to that, she’d been a youth ministry leader and community outreach leader at Desert Foothills United Methodist Church.
“I knew from my first Y-OPAS experience that I wanted to be a part of this wonderful and caring group,” she said. “I am passionate about connecting people in our community for good. And the Y-OPAS volunteers are some of the most giving and fun people I know.”
She recounted a few memorable accomplishments during her tenure.
“This past year, the book sale was bigger and better under our new shade sails,” she said, speaking of the popular spring event held the past 11 years.
“And, through one of our grants, we instituted a program in partnership with Rebuilding Together, which allows us to provide safety equipment installations in the home – that’s a program I’m most proud of,” she continued, noting:
“Those grab bars and ramps are things that can keep people safe at home. Over the years we’ve helped so many people live well and age successfully - it has been very rewarding.”
In her new role at Chandler/Gilbert Family YMCA, Sears will support Membership, healthy living and community outreach which includes their I-Learn Program – an alternative high school in the Chandler Unified School District.
“I’m happy for Mark to come in and put his skills and talents to work making Y-OPAS better and better,” she said.
As new to the program as Mansir is, he is quick to tout some free services provided and upcoming events for Ahwatukee seniors at Y-OPAS.
What began in 2001, at Mountain View Lutheran Church, is now a YMCA program, since 2006.
Its stated objective is to “meet the needs of the growing senior population in Ahwatukee, with the goal of enabling our seniors to maintain independent living in their homes.”
Like his predecessor, Mansir said there is always a crucial need for volunteer drivers to help area seniors.
In addition to the services, Y-OPAS hosts monthly luncheons and special outings to help keep seniors plugged in with others in the community.
“Every month we host a luncheon for our seniors,” said Mansir. “On Nov. 12, we’re having a potluck and we’re providing the turkey and asking guests to bring along their favorite side dish.”
Mansir and volunteers are also gearing up for one of the season’s highlights – the Y-OPAS Holiday Lights Tour.
“Monday, Dec. 16, is our two-hour tour on YMCA buses viewing local residential light displays, and followed by refreshments served by youth at the YMCA,” he said.
Early registration is crucial as only 24 members can be accommodated.
“It’s a very popular event enjoyed by many, and growing each year.”
Mansir’s enthusiasm for his new position is palpable, as is his oft-repeated desire to help others – and now especially, Ahwatukee’s seniors.
“I’ve always felt that if I didn’t make a difference in people’s lives - at work or not, then I’ve failed. Along with that thought is a Pericles quote that I love and live by: “What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others”. My hope is to leave a great legacy of making a difference in Ahwatukee.”
Inforrmation: ValleyYMCA.org/opas, or phone the Y-OPAS office at 602-212-6088.