Your Caring Community Partner – Your YMCA – Then and Now
By Tom Bostock

YMCA National History,(www.mfldymca.org), in their online article, Our History – A Brief History of the YMCA Movement, painted a dismal, depressing and dangerous picture about life and prospects in London, England during its Industrial Revolution. It was a constant struggle for survival for the young men from poor farming communities, who came to London to work on the burgeoning railroads and in other emerging industries. Without adequate labor laws to control the owners, they were at the mercy of their employers; most often overworked and underpaid.

Out of necessity, lodgings were often crowded rooms, above their workplaces, a common occurrence; the streets were unsafe, teeming with thousands of forgotten, homeless children, thieves, robbers, prostitutes and criminals of every variety, just waiting to attack the unsuspecting. It was better to sleep where they worked than risk becoming a target of the streets.

As much as the article reported the gloom and doom of Industrial Revolution-era London, it also gave hints about a brighter, more optimistic life. YMCA’s around the world owe a huge debt of gratitude to their founder, George Williams, a lowly, sales assistant, and several unnamed assistants, who wanted to offer young men a Christian alternative to the danger-fraught “life on the streets,” Bible reading. That was the beginning of what has become a major, international organization. From that single branch, by 1851, there were already “24 Y’s in Great Britain, with a combined membership of 2,700” and that was only the beginning.

The idea caught on like wildfire, crossing the ocean in 1851 with the establishment of YMCAs in Montreal Canada and Boston Massachusetts. A freed slave, Anthony Bowens, started the first YMCA for African Americans in Washington DC. When the first international convention was held in Paris the following year, 7 nations, 397 Y’s and 30,369 members were represented.

As the saying goes, “you’ve come a long way baby.”  What began as a benevolent Bible-reading outreach by a caring sales assistant, now encompasses the entire gamut of the youth condition, not only around the country, but around the world! In, the Y: Our Focus, (www.ymca.net), their goals are clearly outlined.

“The Y is a cause-driven organization that is for youth development, for healthy living and for social responsibility. That’s because a strong community can only be achieved when we invest in our kids, our health and our neighbors,” defining 3 primary areas of focus:

  • YOUTH DEVELOPMENT: Nurturing the potential of every child and teen.
  • HEALTHY LIVING: Improving the nation’s health and well-being.
  • SOCIAL RESPONSIBIITY: Giving back and providing support for our neighbors.

The YMCA is not exclusive, promising “opportunities for all.”

“The Y is for everyone,” the article notes. “Our programs, services and initiatives enable kids to realize their potential, prepare teens for college, offer ways for families to have fun together, empower people to be healthier in spirit, mind and body, prepare people for employment, welcome and embrace newcomers and help foster a nationwide service ethic. And that’s just the beginning.”

Not only is your local YMCA good for the community as a whole, it also makes sound business dollars and sense. YMCAS of Tampa Bay( www.ymcatampabay.org), explains the role of their organization in the business community.

“The Tampa Bay Area YMCAs partner with local businesses in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Citrus and Hernando counties to create greater access to healthy living. Our corporate membership program is available to corporate groups with 100+ employees and our corporate wellness programming is available to any employer in the five-county area. We work with over 205 area businesses to ensure employees have access to the YMCA closest to their homes and across the Bay Area.”

How do these programs improve business bottom lines? Your area YMCA has the answer. “The Tampa Bay Area YMCAs is interested in helping companies decrease the cost of health care by providing access to high-quality researched based information, programs and orders.”

When the American Institute for Preventative Medicine developed their “Wellness Wizard,” the goal was to help “companies to understand how these statistics apply to their employees.” It also provided a cost breakdown of the risk factors and the savings for reducing them, with eye-opening results:

  • 25 have cardiovascular disease
  • 26 have high blood pressure
  • 38 are overweight
  • 21 smoke
  • 24 don’t exercise
  • 6 are diabetic

As your local Y promises,”We Can Help Make Your Numbers Better.” How much better? Just look at the measurable results:

  • 22% decrease in sick days taken
  • 25% decrease in injuries
  • 16% decrease in doctor’s visits
  • 62% decrease in hospital admissions

The numbers don’t lie. Whether you are a teen looking to build up your body in the gym, learn to swim or just hang out with your ‘buds,’ or a business trying to effectively reduce your health care cost, your local YMCA can be that answer. Call today. You’ll be glad that you did.