Our History

A Rich History and a Greater Future

Many love to know where we came from – however we think where we are heading is more important.

Together, the nation’s 2,617+ YMCAs are the largest not-for-profit community service organization in America, working to meet the health and human service needs of 20.2 million men, women and children in 10,000 communities in the United States. YMCAs are at the heart of community life across the country: 42 million families and 72 million households are located within three miles of a YMCA.

YMCA stands for Young Men’s Christian Association, but don’t misinterpret this to mean that YMCAs are only for “young, Christian men.” From its start more than 150 years ago, when George Williams founded the YMCA as a substitute Bible study and prayer for life on the streets, the YMCA was unusual because it crossed the rigid lines that separated all the different churches and social classes in England in those days. This openness was a trait that would lead YMCAs to recognize their strength is in the people they bring together — Ys are for all people of all faiths, races, ages, abilities and incomes. YMCAs’ financial assistance policies ensure that no one is turned away for reasons of inability to pay.