It began in 1854, with a small group of idealistic young men gathered to start the Young Men’s Christian Association of Cleveland. What began as a group devoted to the doing of good deeds and the mission of spreading the gospel, has evolved into a community service and charity based organization committed to the promotion of diverse principles through the balanced development of mind, body and spirit in the Greater Cleveland community. From strong beginnings with founding members such as Henry A. Sherwin, Serano P. Fenn to philanthropists John D. Rockefeller, L.H. Severance and S.T. Wellman, the foundation of the Y’s past has remained the blueprint of our future.
Since its founding in 1854, the YMCA of Greater Cleveland has provided quality programs and services across an increasingly wide spectrum that encompasses fitness, education, civic service and community health and well-being.
Among the nation’s oldest and most influential associations, its first building was on the north side of Public Square, a site now occupied by KeyBank.
Through the years it has played a significant role in the establishment of Cleveland’s juvenile court and probation system, city playgrounds, and the Legal Aid Society.
The Greater Cleveland YMCA was also the site of the first separate Boys’ Branch in the United States, which opened on November 12, 1901 in Ohio City.
In World War I, the Greater Cleveland YMCA partnered with the Red Cross for a fund-raising effort that eventually led to the creation of the United Way.
In 1921, the Cleveland School of Technology of the YMCA (Y-Tech) was organized. This school later became known as Fenn College and eventually Cleveland State University.
THE NATIONAL YMCA MOVEMENT
The Young Men’s Christian Association was founded in London, England, in 1844 to address the deteriorating social conditions of the time. The YMCA offered positive alternatives to street activities.
Today, there are YMCAs in more than 120 countries, serving an estimated 45 million people. The 2,686 YMCAs in America serve 10,000 U.S. communities, uniting 21 million children and adults of all ages, races, faiths, backgrounds, abilities and income levels. Our reach and impact can be seen in the millions of lives we touch every year.
Across the nation, YMCAs are committed to helping:
DID YOU KNOW...
Basketball was invented at the Y
In 1891, at the International YMCA Training School, James Naismith invented the sport. The first professional basketball team also came from a Y -- the Trenton YMCA in New Jersey.
Volleyball was invented at the Y
In 1895 William Morgan created the game when we felt basketball was too strenuous for business men.
Raquetball was invented at the Y
In 1950 at the Greenwich, CT, YMCA by Joe Sobeck, a member who couldn't find other squash players of his caliber and did not care for handball.
Bodybuilding was invented at the Y
The term was first used in 1881 by Robert Roberts, a member of the staff at the Boston YMCA.
Father's Day was invented
at the Y
In 1910, Louise Smart Dodd petitioned the Spokane, Washington, Ministerial Alliance to recognize and support fathers.
The first African-American Baseball League started at the Y
In 1920, the Negro National League started in Kansas City, MO.
Learn more about the Y's impact on society here.