Allentown YMCA & Allentown YWCA
HISTORY 1858 - Present
Since their beginnings, the Allentown YMCA and the Allentown YWCA continually evolve to respond to the critical needs of the community. To this day, community leaders on Y Boards along with dedicated staff address issues that affect the quality of life in Allentown - from original roots in evangelism and women's rights to present day purposes in each intuition: YMCA - youth development, healthy lifestyles and social responsibility; YWCA - eliminating racism and empowering women.
"As the pre-war period came to close, there was also founded in 1858 in Allentown a chapter of the Young Men's Christian Association, originally established in 1841 in London Early to hold religious meetings in business firms in the center of city." 1 The YMCA paused during the Civil War and reignited with passion for Mission and services in 1878 uninterrupted to the present day. The YWCA began in 1898 with a focus on women's rights and issues.
Programs provided by these social services organizations in 143 years of service include:
- YMCA: Began part of nationwide group of leaders in the early 1900's to provide supervised recreation for urban children.
- YMCA: War related fundraising efforts in World Wars 1 and 2; recruiting members to the Red Cross; Supplying phonograph, records and books to war units, a free club room, and swimming.
- Both YMCA and YWCA were part of the Welfare Council in the 1940's to form the USO organization for national defense, opening a USO club in the YMCA. The YWCA opened a GI lounge to deal with WW2 postwar social problems.
- The YMCA provided a home away from home for military personnel in the 1940's and continues today to provide recreation and programs for active military personnel and their families, sponsored by the YMCA Military Initiative.
- Over the past 50 years, the YMCA and YWCA provided recreation, fitness, preschool, child care, day camp, education, teen programs, youth development, women's empowering programs, and social services in partnership with hundreds of local city and non-profit organizations.
- Today, both YMCA and YWCA address current issues and respond:
- The health and obesity crisis is addressed through YMCA Active America and ACHIEVE (Action Communities for Health, Innovation and Environmental Change). A partnership in its fourth year led by the Allentown Y and the Health Bureau, we draw on community leaders from the city, colleges, hospitals, and school district to create a healthier community together.
- The unemployed are assisted to gain meaningful work through our Perfect Fit and First Impressions Work programs. In 2010, over 500 men and women were trained for job interviews. GED and ESL classes are offered as needed.
- Youth Development: With a focus on character development, asset development, educational and literacy programs, skill development, thousands of you are guided in a direction to become caring, compassionate, successful adults.
- Over 90% of the children at our 15th Street child care center come from low income families.
- Over 400 total are enrolled I Y children and day camp in 12 sites in the Lehigh Valley.
- The aging population is served through 27 classes that provide strength, endurance and socialization to help 800 seniors stay independent and strong.
- The government and community support for our current services in this increasingly low income neighborhood is nearing $1 million annually. Local organizations frequently call on the Y as a partner in responding to community needs.
- Although still separate corporations, the YMCA and YWCA combined efforts in 1996 to reduce costs and partner in each other's Missions for greater impact.
The result: stronger families, children and individuals.