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YMCA, an International Movement

The YMCA was founded in London, England, in 1844 in response to unhealthy social conditions arising in big cities at the end of the Industrial Revolution.  Growth of railroads and centralization of industry and commerce brought many rural young men who needed jobs into cities like London.

George Williams was one of these young men. He was born on a farm and moved to London 20 years later to work at a draper's shop, a forerunner of today's department store. He and a group of fellow drapers organized the first YMCA to substitute Bible study and prayer for life on the streets. The Y has always been nonsectarian and accepts all faiths.

The YMCA idea spread rapidly. In 1851, the first YMCA in this country was started in Boston. Two years later the St. Louis YMCA was founded in the Second Baptist Church, as noted by the Missouri Republic on October 20, 1853, "It is our privilege to record the beginnings of an enterprise, which contains in it the germs of more good to St. Louis than any undertaking which has ever been entered upon here."


YMCA of Greater St. Louis

The YMCA of Greater St. Louis was founded on October 13, 1853, at the 2nd Baptist Church by 23 young men. Since then, the Y has been one of the leading health and human service organizations in St. Louis. Beginning with three rented rooms in the Mercantile Library, and growing as St. Louis grew, the Y now delivers programs and services at 400 program sites throughout seven Missouri counties in the Greater St. Louis area.

Our association features 17 traditional Y branches and two Campus Y student leadership facilities on the Missouri side of the St. Louis Metro Area. The Carondelet Park Rec Complex and the O'Fallon Park Rec Complex are owned by the City of St. Louis and operated by the YMCA of Greater St. Louis.

The association also includes YMCA Trout Lodge and Camp Lakewood in Potosi, located in Missouri’s Eastern Ozarks and situated on a 360-acre lake surrounded by 5,200 acres of forest-covered hills. Trout Lodge is a year-round, not-for-profit, family getaway, conference center and outdoor education center.  Camp Lakewood is a co-ed summer overnight camp for ages 6-17 and an outdoor education center during non-summer months. 

Y facilities provide community gathering and recreational areas, as well as fitness centers, swimming pools, child care facilities, sports programming, student volunteer centers and learning labs. Today’s Y programs serve youth and teens, families, adults, seniors and communities throughout the Greater St. Louis area.

Through membership and programming based on our Core Values of Caring, Honesty, Respect and Responsibility, the Y strives to serve everyone and provides financial assistance to those who qualify. Financial assistance is made possible by the YMCA Annual Campaign. The YMCA of Greater St. Louis is a proud member of the United Way.