History of the YMCA

George Williams and the small group of other young men who set up the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) had a great belief in what they were doing – but they probably have been amazed a the scale and scope of the worldwide movement that emerged. Here we examine the movement’s origins and the contributions of George Williams.

During June and early July 1844 a series of discussions took place in rooms above Hitchcock and Rogers drapers shop in St. Paul’s Churchyard. George Williams, Christopher Smith, Edward Valentine, John Symons, and the eight, nine, or ten other young men involved, discussed setting up what quickly became known as The Young Men’s Christian Association. They set out with ‘the view of uniting and directing the efforts of Christian young men for the spiritual welfare of their fellows in the various departments of commercial life. In other words, they began by looking to the needs of people like themselves – a form of mutual aid. As the Movement grew, those involved were quick to amend rules and activities in response to the needs they identified. For example, by 1848 the object of the Association was not just ‘spiritual’ but also ‘mental’ improvement; and the concern was with young men in general.

The one association within a year had branches in the West End, Islington, Pamlico, Southwark – and then in Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool, Exeter, Bristol, Plymouth and Hull. These then became independent associations. Furthermore, following the activities of the London Association during the Great Exhibition of 1851 associations spread to Australia, France, India, and to North America. So was formed the distinctive shape of the Movement. It was to be a movement of, by and for young men; built around faith in Jesus Christ. It was to be evangelizing; ecumenical in spirit and membership; and to be concerned with improving social conditions and promoting learning. Central to this was ‘the duty of Christian young men to witness in practical ways to their faith in the sphere of their daily life. Crucially, YMCAs were organized around collective effort via the formation of local associations. While George Williams may be honored as the founder – the growth of the Movement was very much as associational effort.

The Auglaize/Mercer Counties Family YMCA

The Auglaize/Mercer Counties YMCA was charted in 1983 by a group of community leaders who saw the need for a YMCA to serve the communities in the Auglaize and Mercer Counties area. The first Executive Director was hired and the dream was underway. For three years the Auglaize/Mercer Counties YMCA provided programs and services as a non-facility operation using existing schools,  churches, and parks for areas for program space.

In 1986 the first full service YMCA was opened in Celina with a 35,000 square foot facility which included a swimming pool, gymnasium, locker rooms, indoor running track, exercise room, racquetball courts, and meeting rooms. In 1990 an 18,000 square foot addition was added. That expansion included a childcare wing, a second gymnasium,  a large weight room, and an additional racquetball court. This facility is now known as the North Branch YMCA.

In 1994 the 35,000 Square foot South Branch YMCA was built between Minster and New Bremen, Ohio to better serve the residents of Southwestern Auglaize county. This facility included a swimming pool, gymnasium, locker rooms, indoor running track, exercise room, and meeting rooms.

Today the Auglaize/Mercer Counties Family YMCA provides programs and services to its members and the residents of Auglaize and Mercer counties. Programs include swimming, fitness, 1 State Licensed Child Care Learning Center, in house Child Watch nursery service, adult and youth sports, senior programs, teen programs, school-age activities, and family activities. The YMCA serves as a community focal point hosting many area events like Healthy Kids Day, Health Fairs, Home Shows, and many other special events around Auglaize and Mercer counties throughout the year.