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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."


Gateway Region YMCA 

The Gateway Region YMCA  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 the bi-state region. Beginning with three rented rooms in the Mercantile Library, and growing as the metropolitan area grew, the Y now delivers programs and services through 24 traditional branch locations and more than 120 program sites covering St. Louis City, seven Missouri counties, and six counties in southwest Illinois.

The Gateway Region YMCA also includes:

  • YMCA Camp Lakewood and Trout Lodge in Potosi, Mo. -  Nestled into 5,200 acres of picturesque, forest-covered hills and a 360-acre private lake, the facilities provide children, families, professionals and groups an opportunity to discover new talents, explore, have fun, make connections and develop.
  • Community Development YMCA - Provides resources to address the bi-state region’s most pressing social issues in education, employment, hunger, health and youth development.
  • Campus Y student leadership facility at Washington University - The student centered organization offers 21 community service programs that are student led and student run.

The Carondelet Park Rec Complex and the O’Fallon Park Rec Complex are owned by the City of St. Louis and operated by the Y

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 and Southwest Illinois 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 Gateway Region YMCA is a proud member of the United Way.