Our History

Respect, Caring, Honesty, Responsibility. The same values that the YMCA holds to today are the values that the YMCA was built upon. Founded in London in 1844 by George Williams  in response to a need for helping young men explore a life other than the street, this simple idea proved popular. The YMCA has evolved into an international organization whose purpose is to improve the spiritual, mental, social, & physical conditions of all.

What made the YMCA so groundbreaking & unusual was the organization’s desire to cross rigid lines of religion and social class. This openness is what helped to evolve the organization into one that welcomed all, regardless of race, religion, or nationality. The goal of meeting social needs in the community was crystal clear from the start.

Although membership declined during the Civil War, the commitment continued as the remaining YMCA’s assisted soldiers & prisoners of war, setting the precedent that still stands in serving our armed forces. New YMCA’s boomed after the Civil War, at which time the mission statement was adopted through the New York YMCA: “The improvement of the spiritual, mental, social, and physical condition of young men.”

During the 1880’s, YMCA buildings were being put up in large numbers, with the gyms, pools, & large auditoriums we all associate with the YMCA. Summer camps and exercise drills also came about (the forefather of today’s exercise classes).

Community service continued through the Great Depression and World War II. Particularly through the Depression, YMCA branches used the hard times as a vehicle for re-examining and making themselves more aware of social problems. This brought about the strengthening of the YMCA through community projects & organized classes & lectures. The YMCA had made itself more relevant than ever before, especially through the implementation of the four platforms of youth work: Gra-Y, Junior Hi-Y, Hi-Y, and Y-Indian Guides.

Although child care was done informally at YMCA’s for years, it wasn’t until 1983 that child care joined health/fitness, camping, and residences as a major source of YMCA income. Also during this time, values clarification became a major issue of study at the YMCA, hence the 4 points of character development was born.

Caring. Honesty. Respect. Responsibility. That’s what we believe in at the Geary Family YMCA.