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Our Y

The YMCA was founded in London, England, in 1844, by George Williams and a dozen friends. Their goal was to help provide young men with an alternative to the “wicked streets” and to find God through in-depth Bible study. The first members were Evangelical Protestants who prayed and studied the Bible as an alternative to vice. The YMCA has evolved over the years into a private nonprofit organization that works for the public interest. The YMCA has developed into a broad service organization that exists for the good of the community in which it is located. The “Y” movement has always been nonsectarian and today accepts all faiths at all levels of organization despite its unchanging name: YOUNG MEN’S CHRISTIAN ASSOCIATION

The YMCA of Staunton was founded on November 17, 1874. A constitution was adopted and 61 men paid the $1.50 membership fee to join. The first home of the Staunton YMCA was a set of rented rooms over Kyle’s Meat Market on Augusta Street. These rooms were used as a meeting room and a reading room. Until November 11, 1875, the library was strictly a membership affair, but on that date, restrictions were relaxed to allow any male to use the library upon payment of $1.00 per year. No books were to be taken from the premises. In January 1877, women were permitted to visit the library.

In the intervening years, the YMCA has had various locations. Its first building was at the corner of West Beverly Street and Central Avenue. The building was erected for $21,500 and occupied in November 1889. The YMCA leased the tower of the building to the City of Staunton on a permanent basis for $1000, for the placing of a large clock therein. The clock is a Staunton landmark today.

With the purchase of land in 1913 at the southeast corner of Augusta and Frederick Streets, plans were made to erect a new building. Mrs. Cyrus McCormick, wife of the inventor of the reaper and longtime resident of Augusta County gave a gift of $50,000 towards the new building providing the citizens of Staunton would match it. This building, from the excavation of the basement for the swimming pool to the progress of the bricklayers, became the pride of the community.

In more recent years, the YMCA built (1977) and occupied the building on Tams Street that now houses the Mary Baldwin College Physical Activities Center. This building was sold to MCA in 1987 and the Y became a “store-front” operation, serving children of the community with various programs.

Although initially we experienced some success with the storefront operation, increasing difficulties in obtaining space for programs, rapidly rising rents for available facilities and a growing realization that we were not meeting the goals of our stated mission led the Y board to the decision that we needed a facility.

After considering many options, the YMCA took over the operation of the Staunton Athletic Club and the Staunton Racquet Club and Fitness Center in June 1995. In December 1996, the YMCA consolidated both operations to one location, which now exists at 708 North Coalter Street and has become a thriving family center.

The kids and adults who participate in the Staunton-Augusta YMCA programs and the building with its locker rooms, tennis courts, pool and exercise equipment are part of an international movement that is more than 150 years old. Today’s YMCA exists in 92 countries and serves more than 14.5 million people in 2,000 locations in the United States alone. The YMCA’s scope and its mission are much wider than people think.

Broadly speaking, the YMCA’s mission is to promote the health of the spirit, the mind, and the body for all. That mission is inclusive. It does not emphasize any particular program, age group or economic class. The Y deliberately remains flexible so it can offer programs that are in each community’s best interest and serves to help families grow closer and help people lead healthier lives.

The YMCA is a decentralized movement — purposely so. The national headquarters in Chicago, called the YMCA of the USA, exists solely to help local Y’s serve their members and communities better. It acts as a resource center and does not dictate policy. Instead, each Y is run by a board of hometown volunteers that work to make sure the local Y meets their community’s needs. This means that no two Y’s are exactly alike — because no two communities have exactly the same needs.

When our current location became a YMCA in 1996, it became more than just a place where adults work-out or where kids learn to swim. And so, we are now concentrating on telling our story. What makes us different? The building the Y acquired and the programs carried out within it are only tools in which to carry out our mission, “to promote the health of spirit, mind and body for all.”

We are an organization that provides financial assistance to individuals and families who can not afford the fees. We are an organization that reaches kids, who would otherwise be at home alone during the summer months, through our summer day camp program. We are an organization who takes programs to the areas where families have difficulty with transportation. We are an organization that trains staff to go the extra mile and challenges members and staff to accept core values like honesty, respect, responsibility and caring and to demonstrate those values in our daily lives. This is what makes us different – the YMCA’s strength is in the people it brings together to build strong kids, stronger families and stronger communities.

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