From our beginnings more than 150 years ago, the YMCA of Greater Erie’s legacy has been about the inspirational stories shared from the individuals the Y has helped. Each year of our history has been marked by undeniable accomplishments in the face of the challenges of changing times, but more than anything, what marks our history is our commitment to helping people. The Y is a safe, reliable community resource where both the young and young-at-heart can learn, grow, be accepted and connect with family and community members. Read many Y stories in a special Erie Times News supplement celebrating the Y’s 150 years of service to the Erie community.
The Y’s impact in our community extends well beyond our gyms and pools. The Y is the largest provider of health and well-being, family strengthening, youth development and social responsibility programs in Erie County. There is rarely an instance in a person’s life in which the Y does not play a role.
The Y removes barriers to health and wellness, aids youth development, assists personal achievement, and gives a direct connection to nature in the midst of a harried society. To a family, we might be their favorite pool. To a child, we might be their best friend. To an adult, we might be the second chance they so desperately need. All in all, we’re in the business of human potential.
The YMCA is part of a world wide effort to put Christian principles into practice through programs that build a healthy mind, spirit and body for all.
Our mission is not static. It’s not a destination. It evolves to meet the needs of the communities we serve and the individuals that depend on our programs and services. Understanding our mission is important. Our dedication to deliver on that mission is critical. But, it’s equally imperative that we connect on a more personal level to the people that are part of our Y family. We need to know names, faces and hear their stories.
Members of the Y realize they are not just casual users of a facility but connected, committed members of a Y community. People have come to the Y for many reasons over the years – it began with Erie’s first library and adult education classes for immigrants, then discussion and prayer groups and affordable housing. Erie’s first basketball games, swimming pools, organized camp for boys and the first public playgrounds all originated with the Y. Soon began suburban outreach work, and the building of the Glenwood, Eastside and County Ys, prayer breakfasts for elected officials and the creation of “daycare” centers. Today, five Y branches offer a variety of recreational and fitness programs, 14 childcare locations provide care to infants as young as six weeks, 11 summer camp locations create an unforgettable summer for school-age children, and 1 public camping and recreation center makes lasting memories.
And while our mission work is due to the multiple generations of committed and responsive leaders, the equally important players in this milestone achievement are our volunteers, donors and our employees. To them, we are eternally indebted. To all of you who advance our mission each and every day, in small but significant ways, thank you for your continued support! Your support has impacted someone you may never meet, but rest assured that you made the impossible possible for that person.
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.