YMCA Celebrates 160 Years Serving the Twin Cities Community

  • On July 28, 1856, a small group met in St. Paul’s First Presbyterian Church to form a Young Men’s Christian Association. On June 27, 1866, the YMCA in Minneapolis was formed at Free Will Baptist Church. The Y would serve as a safe space for newcomers to the area to meet, socialize and participate in their communities.
  • Over the years, the programs and services offered by the YMCA have evolved, but its core purpose has remained the same – to address pressing community needs so that all can learn, grow and thrive in each stage of life.

The YMCA of the Greater Twin Cities (YGTC), a leading nonprofit dedicated to strengthening communities through youth development, healthy living and social responsibility, celebrates 160 years serving the Twin Cities community this month.

The Y was in St. Paul and Minneapolis when each city had a population of only 10,000. Today, the YGTC is the fourth largest in the world and engages over 250,000 youth, adults, families and seniors each year.

“The Y has continued to serve the Twin Cities for 160 years by innovatively developing programs and services to meet our community’s changing needs,” says Glen Gunderson, president and CEO of the YMCA of the Greater Twin Cities. “The Y is a dynamic organization that helps all to thrive in each stage of life.”

Throughout its history, the Y has evolved to meet the community’s needs in times of uncertainty and provide a safe space where all can overcome obstacles and reach their potential.

  • During the Civil War, the Y supplied Bibles and bandages to Union soldiers in the South.
  • The Y offered evening classes to working boys in the Industrial Revolution.
  • In its early days, the University YMCA welcomed incoming students to the University of Minnesota with orientation, tours and guidance. After World War I, the University Y hosted convocations around geopolitical issues.
  • Throughout the Great Depression, the Y refused to cut services to those in need. The Y provided free memberships, lodging, meals, medical attention, clothing and tuition for night school.
  • During World War II, the Y partnered with the Minnesota Federation of Churches to combat racial and ethnic hatred. Y service clubs collected scrap metal and sent resources like reading materials and athletic equipment to youth in enemy prison camps.
  • During the 1960s, Y team members were on the streets and in schools, developing relationships with young people at risk to help them diffuse difficult situations and guide them on a path to success.
  • In 1969, the first Y child care center opened to accommodate families with two working parents. The program expanded across the Twin Cities and into elementary school and middle schools by the 1980s.
  • Father’s Day, basketball, volleyball and group swim lessons all began at the Y and benefitted everyone in the community.

Today our Y continues to expand, working with community partners to offer programs and services to address today’s needs, from job readiness to newcomer support and more. The Y’s focus moving forward centers around five key priorities:

  • Addressing the opportunity gap so that all kids have the support and resources they need to succeed academically, socially and emotionally
  • Improving community health and wellbeing through innovative programs for all ages and abilities to lead healthy, happy lives
  • Identifying and cultivating cause-driven leaders by providing opportunities for young people to build character and develop leadership skills
  • Eradicating disparities and increasing equity and access for people of all backgrounds to spark a more connected Twin Cities
  • Expanding within and beyond our four walls to bring Y programs and services to the community outside our facilities through dynamic partnerships

The Y offers many programs and services that ignite youth development, healthy living and social responsibility, including child care, camps, summer programs, youth sports, before and after school enrichment, Youth in Government, teen leadership and service clubs, mentoring, health and wellness programs for all ages and abilities, personal training, group exercise, water safety and swimming lessons, and support programs for youth and adults facing obstacles.

See how the Y serves with our community today – YMCA Helps People Thrive in the Twin Cities.

Discover how the Y gives back and provides support to the community through a variety of programs to increase access for all – Together We Can Build a Better Us.

Learn how the Y’s mission comes to life through community partnerships – Mission Impact Council Grant for Little Earth of United Tribes and Mission Impact Council Grant to the Brian Coyle Community Center.

Enjoy the bright, smiling faces of day campers celebrating the YGTC 160th anniversary – Happy Birthday YMCA.

Because the Y is a leading nonprofit committed to helping all learn, grow and thrive, financial assistance is available based on need. Learn more