Welcome to the
The YMCA of El Paso strengthens the foundations of our community through well-being and fitness, camps, family time, swim, sports and play, and other activities for people of all ages, incomes and abilities. We’re more than just a place to work out. At the Y, we help build a healthy spirit, mind and body for all with the core values of caring, honesty, respect and responsibility at the heart of everything we do.
With a commitment to nurturing youth development, promoting healthy living, and fostering a sense of social responsibility, the Y ensures that every individual has access to the essentials needed to learn, grow and thrive.
THE YMCA WORLD-WIDE
The YMCA was founded in London, England, in 1844 by George Williams and about a dozen friends who lived and worked as clerks in dry-goods stores. For these men, and thousands like them who had migrated from the countryside to find employment, their bleak lives usually consisted of 14-hour workdays followed by sleep in small rooms above the shops. On their day of rest, many of the young men sought refuge in taverns or brothels. But Williams and his friends chose religious services, and felt compelled to help the other young men find what they had found: God’s grace. The first members were evangelical Protestants who prayed and studied the Bible as an alternative to the vice plagued streets. The Y’s primary activity of that time was to develop a library and reading. First known as the “Young Men’s Improvement Society”. It adopted its present name, “Young Men’s Christian Association,” on June 6, 1844.
The idea grew, and by 1851, there were 24 Y’s in Great Britain, with a combined membership of 2,700. That same year, a retired American sea captain, Thomas V Sullivan, saw the influence the London group was having on young men and decided that Boston young men needed the YMCA. One was established in 1851 and Y leaders became so excited about its own success that it printed and sent 10,000 copies of its constitution across the United States. As a result, in 1853 thirteen new YMCAs were organized from coast to coast.
During the Y’s early years, great emphasis was placed upon religious understanding the relationships with Protestant church. However, the library, reading room, lecturing and other educational aspects of the early Y movement quickly began to assume major emphasis. During the late 1850’s, YMCA classes in language, music and gymnastics were begun. Although many Y’s permitted membership only to men under 35-40 years, they developed ladies’ auxiliaries to make rooms attractive, raise money, serve in welfare projects and teach Bible classes.
As the Y began to serve persons of all religious faiths, its relationship to denominational Protestantism began to be more clearly defined. Today the Y movement has remained nonsectarian and accepts those of all faiths at all levels of the organization.
From its formative years, the YMCA of the USA has pioneered across a wide front, including the invention of basketball, volleyball, organized camping, swim lessons, Youth and Government, Y Indian Guides and much more. The Y also helped other organizations such as the Boy Scouts, USO, Toastmasters and Camp Fire Girls get their start in the US. Short-term capital fund campaigns were another Y “first”. The Y also led the way in disaster relief efforts, organized community and public recreation, started evening colleges and night school education, developed the concept to man’s unity of body, mind and spirit, and reinforced it with a nationwide health education and physical fitness emphasis.
John R. Mott, YMCA National General Secretary and President of the World Alliance, received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1946.
In the United States, the Y is the largest provider of childcare, youth sports, fitness, summer campaign, and fitness. It is also the second largest emergency housing provider and the second largest teen employer (after McDonald’s).
Today the YMCA movement remains the largest and oldest, voluntary human service organization in the US. With 16 million participants and member sin the US and more than 33 million worldwide, the Y continues to be a constructive force in 120 countries around the globe.
THE YMCA IN EL PASO
The YMCA of El Paso was organized January 31, 1886 by a handful of young men who met at the First Baptist Church. It had no gymnasium, athletic facilities, nor summer camps. It was in a bare room on San Antonio Street and their activities consisted mostly of prayer meetings. They later moved to San Francisco Street and established quarters above a livery stable. Estimated property value then was $2,500.
The “Y” moved to Oregon and Missouri Streets in 1909 in a building that was valued 20 years later at $150,000. Many a leading citizens enjoyed the many varied programs in the old building and many youth members of the “Y” back then are El Paso’s community leaders today. Young and old alike enjoyed athletics, leaders clubs, Gra-Y, Co-ed Clubs, Y’s Men’s Club, Indian Guides, and many other programs.
In 1955, the “Y” started a Capital Fund Drive to build a two million-dollar facility. In 1957, the Central YMCA moved to the new facility at 701 Montana with a half million-dollar mortgage. The mortgage was paid off in 17 years. At the time, the Montana Street “Y” was one of the finest in the country. Since then it has undergone several renovations, including the renovation of the health enhancement area, women’s girls’ locker rooms, teen center. Soon the swimming pool and gymnasium will be renovated as well.
The Robert E. and Evelyn McKee Residence Tower, a low-income facility that originally was part of the Central Y, became a separate branch in 1994. One-hundred eleven (111) rooms are home to people of all ages. In addition, the Y provides food, social/recreational, religious and many other valuable services to people who live at the Y.
The Northeast Branch was chartered in December 22, 1959 serving the northeast part of the city. Many construction projects have occurred over the years, including the most recent expansion in 1997-98, which included the addition of a new gymnasium, community room, lounge, outdoor playground and basketball courts, and renovation and expansion of the childcare facilities and health enhancement center. Soon a new skate park will be added as well to go along with the swimming pool, gym, racquetball/handball courts, and large athletic field.
The East Valley Family Branch was chartered in April of 1968. The first building was the old pro shop at the now defunct Del Norte Country Club and moved to its present location in 1972. The first facilities consisted of an olympic size swimming pool, teaching pool, and recreation room. Subsequent expansions have provided for soccer fields, racquetball/handball court, tennis courts, kitchen and banquet facilities, child care center, health enhancement area, gymnasium. More recently, the Y renovated the boys and girls locker and shower rooms and the health enhancement facilities.
The Westside Family Branch was organized in October 1979 and was first housed in a storefront at 6404 N. Mesa and then moved to the second story of Thunderbird Bowling Lanes in April 1981. It moved to it present location, 7145 N. Mesa, in November 1, 1984. The facility was a private racquetball club, which has been converted and expanded to where today members enjoy health enhancement facilities, swimming pools, racquetball/handball courts, babysitting services, and tennis/roller hockey courts. In 1997-98, the Y added a new outdoor swimming pool, climbing wall, indoor playground and renovated the health enhancement areas.
Today, there are nearly 14,000 members of the YMCA of El Paso. In addition, the Y will serve another 10,000-15,000 annually through our sports, fitness, childcare, summer camps, leaders clubs, swimming and other character-development programs and activities. While the Y has been around for over 150 years, we are as young and responsive as ever.