YMCA first summer camp in 1885

Our History

When George Williams founded the first YMCA in Industrial Revolution-era London, he sought to create a supportive community to help young men like himself address pressing social challenges. The idea found a home in the U.S. seven years later at the Old South Church in Boston. The last 170+ years have seen the Y's mission grow exponentially, and today the Y engages more than 10,000 neighborhoods across the U.S. As the nation’s leading nonprofit, the Y is committed to empowering people to reach their full potential, to improving well-being, inspiring action, strengthening communities and ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to become healthier, more confident, connected and secure.

 

Our History
portrait of George Williams

The Founding Years

1800 – 1900

The first YMCA was conceived in industrial London in 1844 when a farmer-turned-department store worker and his friends gathered to organize a refuge for young men seeking escape from the hazards of the streets. Today, the Y still harkens back to its roots in creating safe, enriching spaces for communities across the globe.

1920 USO during World War 2

1900 – 2000

The formative years of the YMCA were ones of inspired growth. We saw the organization's mission spread to cities across the U.S., lifting people up and strengthening communities.

Woman holding plastic drink cup in line

2000s

Once again, the Y played an instrumental role in times of crises during the 2000s, providing essential services and support when and where it was needed most. We also adapted to the evolving landscape of health and well-being with new programs and partnerships designed to support generational changes in young people and the definition of modern-day families.

More on Who We Are

  • Our Mission

    The Y has grown exponentially over the span of our rich history, but our mission of putting Christian principles into practice through programs that build healthy spirit, mind and body for all has remained constant.

  • Our Vision

    Our vision continues to evolve as we strive toward increasing our impact in youth development, healthy living and social responsibility in the U.S. and across the globe.

  • Strong Communities

    For more than 175 years, the Y has been building spirit, mind and body for all. We know that strong people build strong communities – because we are all better together.