Barbara Roper

Advocate Spotlight: Barbara Roper

Barbara Roper, the first female board chair at the YMCA of Central Florida and first female board chair of the YMCA of the USA, was inducted into the National YMCA Hall of Fame during the General Assembly of YMCAs in July 2019.

For more than five decades, Barbara has served as a pioneer of progress, not only here at the YMCA of Central Florida, but also within the global YMCA movement. Her trailblazing work and unwavering perseverance helped to reshape the image of the YMCA from an association for young men to a movement committed to serving and improving the lives of all.

A Trailblazer & Visionary

In a time when America was still working to adopt women’s rights, Barbara persisted, breaking through historical gender barriers and redefining notions about women in business.

Barbara began her service at the YMCA of Central Florida in the mid-1960s as a board member for Camp Wewa, and next, as a delegate to the metro YMCA board. She helped to establish a YMCA in her community of Winter Garden, FL – the West Orange Y (now named the Roper YMCA Family Center). She founded and chaired the Commission on the Status of Women in Orange County and eventually, statewide. She was appointed as the Central Florida representative to the regional YMCA board and also chaired the National Committee on Membership Standards that conducts reviews of YMCA associations.

In 1980, Barbara was elected the first female board chair of the YMCA of Central Florida, and then went on to become the first female board chair of the YMCA of the USA. She was also chair of the YMCA National Council and held volunteer positions in the World Alliance of YMCAs.

Barbara Roper
Roper YMCA Groundbreaking

Roper YMCA Family Center Groundbreaking

Exterior Front

Roper YMCA Family Center Exterior

West Orange YMCA Renamed Roper YMCA in 2004

Barbara and her husband, Bert, left an enduring legacy at the West Orange Y in Winter Garden, which they supported and served for so many years. In 2004, the Ropers gave a $1 million gift to fund the expansion of the facility, the largest gift received by the YMCA of Central Florida at that time. That year, the new building was renamed the Roper YMCA Family Center in their honor.


Barbara’s Leadership Continues Today

At the YMCA of Central Florida, Barbara is currently a trustee and a member of both the volunteer executive committee and the metropolitan board of directors. Her living legacies of service and leadership have touched many different communities all around the world. On both local and global scales, Barbara is known as a committed and passionate YMCA leader who has dedicated her life to advancing the Y mission.

An inspiration to many in our Central Florida community, Barbara’s lifelong service at the Y has impacted and transformed many lives. In her honor each year, the YMCA of Central Florida awards the Barbara Roper Advocacy Award to a volunteer who raises the bar in moving our organization forward.