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  • Wednesday, January 24, 2007

    YMCA Movement in North America

    The Chengdu YMCA asked me to prepare an article on the North American YMCA Movement for the current issue of their YMCA Magazine. Using materials from the web site of the YMCA of the USA, I submitted the following article which is also translated into Chinese.

    YMCAs Build Strong Kids,
    Strong Families, Strong Communities

    America’s 2,617 YMCAs make it the largest not-for-profit community service organization in America, working to meet the health and human service needs of 20.2 million men, women and children who are members in 10,000 communities in the United States. YMCAs are at the heart of community life across the United States: 42 million families and 72 million households live within three miles of a YMCA.

    YMCA stands for Young Men's Christian Association, but that does not mean that YMCAs are only for "young, Christian men." From its start more than 150 years ago, when George Williams founded the YMCA in London with Bible study and prayer meetings as a substitute for life on the streets, the YMCA was unusual because it included men from all the different churches and social classes in England. This openness was a trait that would lead YMCAs to recognize their strength is in the people they bring together -- Ys are for all people of all faiths, races, nationalities, ages, abilities and incomes. American YMCAs' financial assistance policies ensure that no one is turned away for reasons of inability to pay.

    Volunteers lead YMCAs and are central to their mission, ensuring each Y meets the unique needs of its community. Over 561,000 people serve as YMCA volunteers in America.

    Collaboration is critical to American YMCAs' efforts to develop effective community-based programs. Many YMCAs collaborate with schools, hospitals, churches and juvenile courts to provide human services.

    Because YMCAs are driven by the communities they serve, each American YMCA is different. Child care, teenage leadership training, and sports clubs for older adults may be offered in one community, while another YMCA provides swim lessons, fitness classes, and after-school programming in local schools. Every Y decides what programs to offer and how to operate. From child care to older adult fitness, camping and aquatics, YMCAs offer opportunities for individuals and families to grow in spirit, mind and body at every stage of life.

    YMCAs are the largest providers of child care in the United States, operating nearly 10,000 child care sites across the country, providing high-quality and affordable care to more than 500,000 children. YMCAs also serve nearly 10 million children under the age of 18 through activities such as camping, sports and after-school programs. YMCAs are the largest employers of teenagers in the country.

    The YMCA movement stretches far beyond the United States. YMCAs are at work in more than 120 countries around the world, serving more than 45 million people. About 230 U.S. YMCAs maintain partnerships with YMCAs in other countries. Building strong kids, strong families and strong communities is what the YMCA stands for -- worldwide.










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