Strengthening Communities for over 175 Years: a Brief History of the Y
On Founder’s Day, June 6, the YMCA marks 177 years as a nonprofit dedicated to strengthening communities through programs and services designed to foster youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. Here are five past notable events and achievements that demonstrate the Y’s commitment to the communities it serves:
American Institutions: Celebrations such as Father’s Day, and organizations like the Peace Corps, all have their roots at the YMCA.
Summer Camp: The oldest known summer camp, Camp Dudley, first opened in 1885 and countless numbers of boys and girls have since learned the skills and wonders of camping through the Y, developing critical skills and making memories along the way.
Innovating & Inventing: From James Naismith’s invention of basketball to instructors creating racquetball and what would eventually become volleyball, the Y has a rich tradition in activities that are played by millions of people around the globe. One Y staffer, Robert J. Roberts, is credited with inventing the term “body building.”
A Nobel Peace Prizewinner: YMCA leader John R. Mott was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1946 for the Y’s groundbreaking role in raising global awareness and support and for the organization’s humanitarian efforts.
Furthering Education: The Y is credited with spearheading the first public libraries, night school for adult education and English as a Second Language (ESL) courses.
The Y Today
The effects of COVID-19 reached across the country, closing the doors to every single one of the 2,650 YMCAs across the country. However, the Y was able to do incredible work over the past year, thanks to our staff and volunteers.
When schools and childcare centers first closed their doors, the Y offered emergency childcare services to essential workers at nearly 1,400 locations. As shelters struggled to offer socially distant beds, the Y provided space for people facing homelessness to live and sleep safely. As seniors felt the effects of social isolation, the Y provided wellness checks and connection to our most vulnerable. As unemployment rose hunger increased, the Y answered the call by providing food—through grocery boxes and prepared meals for the whole family—at over 1,300 locations. And as schools transitioned to remote schedules in the fall, forcing parents and caregivers to juggle child care and work, the Y stepped in again and established virtual learning centers to provide children with a safe place to learn.
Here in Southern New Hampshire, the YMCA of Greater Nashua faced 2020’s challenges head on.
We “said yes” to frontline worker families so parents could continue to work throughout the pandemic. Over 500 kids have been served in early education and our remote learning academy programs in 2021.
We “said yes” to dozens of seniors, families, and cancer survivors who needed to focus on their health during the pandemic through our wellness programs like Prescribe the Y and LiveStrong. The Y continued these programs, when many other organizations closed their doors.
We “said yes” to helping our community deliver thousands of free meals to our most vulnerable members and neighborhoods.
We “said yes” to reaching out those feeling isolate to check in on them and just say hello.
We “said yes” to creating virtual exercise options so those quarantining at home could still seek out their wellness and fitness classes for that much needed break from the stresses of the past year.
A lot has changed since the first Founder’s Day when George Williams and 11 other young men gathered in London in 1844, but the heart of the Y’s work remains the same. We’re one of the oldest nonprofits in the United States and rely on members and donors to continue our work.
Thank you for your continued support!
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