The YMCA began in London England in 1844. It was founded by a young
drapery clerk named George Williams and eleven other young men, who, like
him wanted to provide young men with an alternative to the corrupt
environment which prevailed in 19th century London. The Y's primary activity
of that time was to develop a library and reading room and to conduct
discussions, lectures and Bible study groups. First known as the "Young
Men's Improvement Society." It adopted its present name, "Young Men's
Christian Association" on June 6th 1844.
The YMCA came to America in 1851. A retired American sea captain, Thomas
V. Sollivan, saw the influence the London was having on young men and
decided that Boston young men needed the YMCA. One was established in 1851
and became so excited about its own success that it printed and sent 10,000
copies of its constitution across the United States. As a result in 1853
thirteen new YMCAs were organized from coast to coast.
During the YMCAs early years, great emphasis was placed upon religious
understanding and relationships with Protestant churches. However, the
library, reading room lecturing and other educational aspects of the early
YMCA Movement quickly began to assume major emphasis. During the late 1850's
YMCA classes in language, music and gymnastics were begun. Although many
YMCAs permitted membership only to men under 35 to 40 years of age, they
developed ladies' auxiliaries to make rooms attractive, raise money, serve
in welfare projects and teach Bible classes.
As YMCAs began to serve persons of all religious faiths, their
relationship to denominational Protestantism began to be more clearly
defined. Today the YMCA is regarded as a non-denominational, private, lay
Christian organization. It has no organic ties to any church, government or
From its formative years, the United States YMCA has pioneered across a
wide front and has helped other organizations serving youth such as boy
scouts and camp fire girls, to get started. The YMCA's James Naismith, in
1891 invented basketball and in 1895 a Y physical director, William
Morgan, invented volleyball. Youth camping was first started by the YMCA in
Short-term capital fund campaigns were another YMCA "first". The YMCA led
the way in disaster relief efforts, organized community and public
recreation, developed the concept of man's unity of body, mind and spirit
and reinforced it with a nationwide health, education and physical fitness
emphasis. Today, it is the nation's leader in such activities.
The Young Men's Christian Association is unique among those institutions
which American Society has provided for the welfare of its youth and
families . It performs a vital unduplicated function.
The YMCA's unique role results from the combination of five factors:
The YMCA is a voluntary organization. Boys, girls, young people
participate in the programs of the Y because they want to, not because they
Mature citizens, too, voluntarily serve on its boards and committees and
provide leadership for its activities because they believe in the importance
of the YMCA program and choose to share responsibility for its development
and effective operation.
Because of its fundamental character as a voluntary organization , the
YMCA enjoys freedom to determine its policies and select its methods of
serving youth without interference from political or governmental sources.
The YMCA works with young people in their leisure, when they are free to
do what interests them ,with companions of their choice. The misuse of
leisure is responsible for much of the crime and delinquency among youth
The YMCA was born of the free enterprise system and its growth has
parallel that of free enterprise. Although the Y operates in all parts of
the world, like free enterprise, it has reached its highest development
under the American system.
Although non-sectarian, the YMCA is a Christian organization. Its purpose
and program proudly direct youth to the spirit and teachings of Jesus and
leads them toward a dynamic religious faith as the only sound basis for the
achievement of character and realization of a full life.
For generations the Y has worked with youth - with problem youngsters and
with good youngsters and exceptional youngsters. It has sent them out into
the life of the community as well adjusted, useful citizens, many of them as
This is the Young Men's Christian Association.
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