“I first came to the YMCA in 1931 when I was eight. A nickel got you a towel, a gym and a swim. I gave the YMCA 5 cents every week but they gave me lifelong friends and my wife, Thelma. We just celebrated our 62nd wedding anniversary. I’m blessed and grateful.”
-Paul Weimer, Longtime YMCA
advocate and Recipient of the Prestigious
Sir Thomas More Award
An On-Growing Mission:
The Young Men's Christian Association was founded in London, England on June 6, 1844, in response to unhealthy social conditions arising in the big cities at the end of the Industrial Revolution. Growth of the railroads and centralization of commerce and industry brought many rural young men in need of jobs into cities like London. They worked 10 to 12 hours a day, six days a week. By 1851 there were 24 Y’s in Great Britain with a combined membership of 2,700. That same year the Y arrived in North America: It was established in Montreal on November 25, and in Boston on December 29.
In the United States during the Civil War, Y membership shrunk to one-third its size as members marched off to battle. Only 59 YMCAs were left by the war's end. As soldiers returned and reconnected with their families, the desire to unite and strengthen the community brought the need to rebuild YMCAs. Four years later there were 600 more. Gyms and swimming pools began appearing along with big auditoriums and bowling alleys. Shortly after YMCAs took up boys’ work and organized summer camps, they set up exercise drills in classes, forerunners of today's aerobics. In addition, they began organizing college students for social action, invented basketball and volleyball and served the special needs of railroad men who had no place to stay when the train reached the end of the line. By the 1890s, the YMCA’s purpose evolved into the triangle of spirit, mind and body for all. This growth and expansion period led to the creation of today’s diverse selection of healthy YMCA programs and services.
In 1931, the first Akron Area YMCA branch, Canal Square, was developed from the Christian heritage on which the YMCA was founded. Distinguishing it from other public and private clubs and organizations, the YMCA instills their core values of caring, honesty, respect, responsibility and faith into kids, teens, adults and families through mission-based programs.
The Akron Area YMCA continues to build strong kids, strong families, strong communities with seven full-time Early Care and Education Centers, more than 30 before and after school sites, six membership branches, and the Phoenix alternative learning school in Medina and East Akron.