Molly Mulcahy meets a lot of fascinating people in her role as the Alumni and Community Relations Director. She spends her days connecting with and sharing the stories of AYF alumni and supporters. As a member of the Advancement team, she also helps create a sustainable future for the AYF while honoring its roots. When the pandemic prevented alumni from gathering in person last year, Mulcahy helped them adapt and interact in new ways like virtual Summer Seminars for Women and Evening Reflections.
What do you do as Alumni and Community Relations Director?
It’s amazing to have the opportunity to serve in this position within the AYF. I follow in the footsteps of the incredible AYF staff who came before me to encourage the growth of our strong alumni community who support future generations.
My position allows me to personally connect with multiple generations of alumni, as well as our current and future participants. It also provides a wonderful opportunity to engage with community partners that generously support our mission. I am lucky to work with our amazing AYF archives team, as well as Summer Seminars for Women and other adult programming. I also work directly with our Advancement team.
What is your favorite part of your job?
Hands down, it’s listening to wonderful stories of campers past and present, from those who attended in the 1940s through all the decades to now. My second favorite part is when I receive a call from a camper who attended years ago and wants to reconnect with a camp friend. I’m passionate about solving those mysteries and connecting people.
What’s one of the best stories an alum has shared with you?
There are so many beautiful and heartfelt stories that have been shared over the last five years – it is impossible to choose one. The common thread through all the stories is the positive life-changing impact of experiencing our programs.
How did you first become involved with the AYF?
I learned of the AYF through my husband’s family. The AYF had such an enormous effect on his family’s lives. It seemed natural that our children would attend camp.
Why did you want to work for the organization full-time?
My first job with the AYF was on the health team at Miniwanca for two years as a seasonal staff member. When the opportunity presented itself, I was thrilled to join the AYF in a full-time role after 20 years in social work. It is incredibly fulfilling, both personally and professionally, to serve an organization that continually works to empower young people to go into the world as their best selves.
What are some of your favorite AYF memories?
One of my favorite memories is attending Family Camp at Merrowvista in fall 2002. I had never attended an AYF program as a participant. My husband, Andy Mulcahy, and I attended with our three children. Our oldest, Thatcher and Dalton, were 6 years old, and Sam was about 3 months old. We were welcomed so warmly into the Merrowvista community. Our oldest two made pies in the Eating Lodge, which was great fun. It was a wonderful weekend filled with family and meeting new friends.
What are some of your favorite things to do outside work?
I am a voracious reader, as well as incredibly passionate about history.
2020 was a difficult year for everyone, including the AYF. How did you cope with the challenges and changes the pandemic caused?
It was an incredibly challenging year of growth for our participants, staff, alumni, and community partners who are such an integral part of our broad AYF family. It feels so important to name and support that.
As the pandemic took hold, we all learned to work in new innovative ways. Our AYF team has worked incredibly hard to bring our three sites (Miniwanca, Merrowvista, and St. Louis) together. Through laughter, Zoom meetings, and new intentional connections, this unimaginable year has created a more unified team than ever before. There is much work ahead of us, but we are ready.
What are you most excited for as campers return to Miniwanca and Merrowvista?
It’s thrilling to execute a program that allows us to bring a limited number of young people physically back into our community. Our staff has worked diligently to navigate fully in-camp programs.
From a historical view, the AYF is at its very best with faced with challenges. We rally and embrace change even when it’s difficult. “It is a mark of leadership to adjust,” is the most common phrase I hear when I talk with our alumni.
Where do you see the AYF in 50 years?
My hope is the AYF will continue to move boldly and thoughtfully into the future, as we approach our 100th anniversary. We have such a rich history and seek to honor that while embracing and implementing new ideas.