Montgomery County Leadership: Zane Moore, President & CEO of YMCA of Bucks County

Zane Moore at his Desk.

Zane Moore, the President and CEO of the YMCA of Bucks County, spoke with MONTCO Today about growing up in Levittown and Fairless Hills; his vivid memories of selling lemonade, coffee, and cookies to drivers waiting in line to buy gas during the gasoline shortage of the late 1970s; the lessons he’s learned from the variety of jobs he’s held; and playing baseball and winning a state championship in American Legion.

Moore also discussed how he credits his wife with shifting his focus beyond baseball; moving to California after graduating from West Chester University; how the YMCA was never part of his career plan; and the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for the organization.

Where were you born, and where did you grow up?

I was born the oldest of two children in Shirley, Massachusetts. My dad was stationed in the Army, so I was born in the Army hospital there. I grew up in Levittown and Fairless Hills in Bucks County.

When did you move to Levittown?

We moved there when I was a baby. We lived in the Stoneybrook section of Levittown until I was about eight, and then we relocated to Fairless Hills, right across the street from the YMCA, until I left for college.

What did your parents do? 

My father worked in the medical industry in sales. My mom was a nurse.

What memories do you have of growing up in Levittown that stay with you today?

It was a great place to grow up. I remember always being outside with the kids in the neighborhood. We were great friends. We played stickball, and we were always in the woods. I went to St. Francis Cabrini and Bishop Egan. I have fond memories of playing outback and hanging out with my brother Chris, with whom I remain close friends with today.

Did you have any jobs growing up?

I always had a job, but I can remember my first time working during the gasoline shortage in the late 1970s. The lines from the corner gas station stretched all the way up Levittown Parkway. There were hundreds of cars. With my mom’s assistance, I made lemonade, coffee, and cookies, and I put them in a wagon and walked car to car up the parkway, selling lemonade, coffee, and cookies to those waiting in line for gas.

I’ve done it all. I’ve flipped burgers, did landscaping, built pools, bartended. I was a bouncer. I was a lifeguard at the YMCA in Fairless Hills.

Where does your work ethic come from?

I guess just always wanting to have a buck in my pocket.

What lessons did you take away from those jobs that still stick with you today?

I have always believed in hard work, and you should use your mind and body to work and give back. My kids have been the same way. When my son was sixteen, I helped him buy his first pick-up truck, and he and his friends started a company called Sons with Trucks. They delivered mulch for the summer.

I’ve watched my daughter work since she was fifteen years old. I love that grit and self-responsibility. It gave my kids a sense of pride. We never made them want for anything, but for them to know they can do something on their own, I think that gives them a sense of pride.

What kind of music were you listening to back then?

The hairbands of the 80s – Bon Jovi, Poison, Motley Crew.

In college, I started listening to the Grateful Dead, Billy Joel, and Elton John.

I’m still very passionate about music. I also like country – I’m a big fan of Zach Brown Band. My playlists have it all – Motley Crew, The Eagles, Billy Joel, Frank Sinatra, and even the Hamilton playlist.

When did you wake up to the power of sports in your life?

It’s always been there. I was passionate about playing baseball. I played center field through high school. I played football in high school, and I wrestled for one year. I was most passionate about baseball.

Why baseball?

I was good at it, and that gave me confidence. I enjoy the game, and I still love watching it today.

Do you have a favorite moment playing baseball?

When I played for Falls American Legion in 1987, we won the state championship. We went on to the U.S. Regionals.

Aside from that, one of my favorite memories is from the state championship for Babe Ruth Baseball. It was in Downingtown, and we stayed with host families. The host family was the Boccio family. Their son, Anthony, played for the Downingtown All-star team, and I played for the Levittown team.

I was with them for a week, and Anthony Boccio and I are still very close friends to this day. We went to college together, and he was just recently with us on vacation.

That’s one of my favorite memories of playing baseball that happened when I went to West Chester. I saw a sign for Downingtown and thought about my time with the Boccio family. I went to the phone book, looked up Anthony Boccio, and called to ask if he remembered me! He came and saw me that night, and we’ve been friends ever since.

Why did you choose West Chester University? 

I wasn’t a great student. I loved working and getting things done; sitting in a classroom was hard for me. I didn’t know what I wanted to school to study. I originally went to Lock Haven University for a year to play baseball. I left Lock Haven for West Chester University with the dream of playing baseball, but I went out for the team and didn’t pursue it. I didn’t have academics on my mind at the time either. I graduated as a great student, but it took some time at West Chester to figure out my priorities.

What was it that helped you turn that corner?

Probably meeting my wife! I should give her credit. I think that played a big role in it.

I had always been a hard worker, and I liked to work, so I was focused on that. I worked for the grounds crew at West Chester University, painting the fields when the Eagles were using the fields for summer practice. There was a time that I needed to realize the future was coming, whether I liked it or not, and I needed to figure out what was next.

I’m going to be speaking with West Chester students in the exercise-physiology department in a week, which was my major, and I’m going to tell them that there are certain things you need, like grit, networking, and passion, that sometimes outweigh what you’re going to do in the classroom. Those are the kids I look to hire here at the YMCA, even over someone who might have been the best student.

West Chester was a good place for you to grow up and come into yourself?

Very much so, and I don’t think I realized it until looking back now. It had a great impact on me, and I appreciated my time there.

When did you first notice that people would follow?

Probably in college. I do remember having that feeling – that people listened to me and I presented well. That got me into sales originally out of college. I remember thinking to myself in college, “people listen to me, people follow me, and I think I could turn this into something.”

Who were the people who saw something in you and opened doors for you?

The first person who saw something in me was a gentleman by the name of Jhan Dolphin. He was the national sales manager for a company called Pacific Fitness, out of Cyprus, California, and they manufactured high-end fitness equipment.

When I graduated from West Chester, I moved out to Orange County. I was determined to work as well as use my exercise physiology degree. I wanted to get into sales of fitness equipment, and Jhan gave me my first shot.

I was twenty-two years old, and they offered me $23,000 a year, which I thought was the greatest offer in the world. Jhan told me that he knew he could make this work by the way I spoke in my interview. We are still in touch today. I was a gritty East Coast kid with a chip on my shoulder. I wanted to move my fiancé out to California, so I had a mission.

Were there others?

Two careers after that, a gentleman named Bob Lomauro, the CEO of the Somerset Hills YMCA. I worked for that company that hired me out of college for nine years, and I traveled across the country with them. I felt I made a pretty good name in that industry, so I broke away and started my own business.

In 2004, I sold that business and got back in the equipment industry. I was consulting with a YMCA in Northern New Jersey. My eyes were opened up to the Y World at that point. Bob challenged me to be a part of it. At the time, I thought that the nonprofit world was not the space for me, but that was 17 years ago, and I’ve never regretted the move. It has been the greatest career move that I’ve ever made. I went from Chief Operating Officer of Somerset Hills to now CEO in Bucks County.

What caused you to make the leap into a YMCA career?

I always search for a mission in my work. I left the equipment sales industry because I did not have the mission that I was looking for. I opened my business, FitLife, with that passion in mind. I tried to build the business around that passion but realized quickly that I could only take it so far.

When I left my company behind that I built, it was hard. I had a tough time with that. It was like giving up a child that I raised and giving them to someone else to raise. Internally, I was re-looking for that desire. The Y became a vehicle that let me take that passion on a smaller level and expand it to a grander scale. The YMCA was never part of my career plan, but I didn’t have that passion to just say, “this is what gets me up in the morning.”

Anyone else who saw promise in you? 

My wife deserves a lot of credit here too. She always pushed and encouraged me. I don’t know what she saw in me. I’ll have to ask her!

You’re at the end of 2021, what are your priorities and opportunities?

This organization, I’m proud of it. It wasn’t always the YMCA of Bucks County. We went through two mergers to build the organization to what it is today. We’ve built a strong foundation, and that was very intentional. We wanted to build a strong foundation to weather a market downturn, a financial downturn, or a hurricane. I never expected a pandemic! I’m glad we had the foundation already built.

Our mission is strong, our purpose is strong. The staff that I’ve surrounded myself with are incredible, and the volunteers and the Board are the best people I’ve ever worked with.

We are not going to abandon our core business right now. We’ve recently undertaken two building projects. Earlier this year we completed a major expansion at our Doylestown branch, and we are currently midway through a complete renovation of our Fairless Hills branch. We’ve renovated our Quakertown Y and opened a brand-new Y in Warminster. We have the best facilities that this county has to offer right now.

I want people to realize that we are here for them when they are ready to come back. We’ve made our facilities safe, and we are ready to serve. We don’t want to abandon our core values and mission, but we realized that we can serve people differently than we have been for generations during the pandemic.

We recognize that people need to be fed. There are families out there that are food insecure, and we can help them.

We recognize that people are in desperate need of childcare right now, and that’s something we can do.

We know some seniors are shut-in and afraid to go out into public. That’s something we can address.

We have developed programs for people with post-opioid addiction recovery. We’ve developed programs for mental wellbeing and veterans who suffer from PTSD.

We’ve become very specialized in listening to our community and developing programs that are donor-supported, so they are free to people and really address the needs of our community.

We are marketing very heavily to let the community know our facilities are safe and we are ready to serve them. We are adapting and adjusting, but we aren’t abandoning our core at the same time.

What about the long term? 6 months or a year down the road? 

We’ve recently renovated all our facilities, so the next question we have to ask ourselves is, “who are we post-pandemic?” and “what areas are we underserving?” There are communities within our service area that need and want our services that we are not fully serving with facilities and programs. We are currently in a management and partnership agreement with the YMCA of Hunterdon County in New Jersey, and exploring whether or not a merger with them makes sense.

Looking six years or six months down the road, we could have a larger geographic area. This will require a capital campaign. I’d like to build out our YMCA in Quakertown and look at other underserved areas of our community to continue growing what we’ve already begun. Our Y is on the move. It’s been on the move for the last ten years, and it’s going to be on the move for the next 10.

What do you do with all your free time, Zane Moore?

I love to spend as much time with my family as possible. Right now, I spend a lot of time at West Chester University watching my daughter, who is a senior, play volleyball. Several weekends ago, I was in South Carolina visiting my son at Coastal Carolina University for Parent’s Weekend. Beyond that, we have a place in Ocean City and spend as much time there as possible. We surf and walk our dog and spend a lot of time on the beach.

Do you read at all? What’s the last good book that you read?

The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday is the last book I read. It’s very relevant to what we are facing right now. I’ve quoted it often. I just finished “The President’s Daughter.” I like to switch between something that can teach me something and something I get lost in. I buy my staff a book every year, and I think The Obstacle is the Way is the one this year.

What gives you hope?

I don’t give much credence to going to hell in a handbasket, that’s not my personality, and I don’t give it energy. I know a lot of people do right now, but I don’t.

What gives me hope? Probably seeing my kids and the opportunity they have for the future, watching them succeed on the court or in the classroom, gives me hope for the future. Seeing my staff when they win or succeed with something, that gives me hope. Watching a member come back to our Y and thank me for being there and keeping it open gives me hope.

Finally, Zane Moore, what is the best piece of advice anybody ever gave you?

I read this question and had to be very thoughtful about it. So many people have given me great advice. One kept sticking out to me. I met a gentleman named Rich Reif, the CEO of Doylestown Hospital, eleven or so years ago when I became the CEO of YMCA of Bucks County. We got lunch, and he asked if I minded him giving me some advice. He said, “don’t ever take the job for granted, but don’t let it consume your life.”

That just resonated with me, and it’s true. The Spiderman saying, “with great power comes great responsibility,” is true. I don’t ever take that responsibility for granted, mainly because I know people rely on me for a paycheck; the community depends on the Y for financial assistance. I take that responsibility very seriously, but at the same time, not letting it consume me can be a challenge.

For example, I did not miss one of my kids’ games, made sure that we sat down for dinner every night, or had time to sit down and read a book. That’s my priority. That’s how I took that advice, and it always stuck with me. I think balance is overrated. It’s not a matter of time management; it’s about attention management. My phone can ping all day long, but it’s about being present in the moment that I’m in.