The YMCA of Greater Halifax/Dartmouth is firmly rooted in its159 years of service stemming from the founding of The Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) in London, England June 6, 1844. At that time, the Industrial Revolution was in full swing and young men were migrating from family farms to the city in search of work.
The YMCA’s founder, George Williams, joined a London draper’s shop—the forerunner to today’s department store—as a sales assistant in 1841. Within three years, he and 11 others would offer Bible study and recreation under the YMCA name as an alternative to the unhealthy diversions of the city. The idea proved quite popular and, in no time, spread to other locales.
The first North American YMCA was established in Montréal, in 1851. At the time of Confederation, 21 YMCAs were operating in the Maritimes, Québec and Ontario.
Over more than a century and a half, The YMCA has been an integral part of the community in spirit, mind and body, evolving to meet the needs of its community, embracing change and welcoming people of all ages, backgrounds, abilities, social and economic circumstances.
Follow the historical milestones:
- 1844 George Williams founded the first YMCA in London, England.
- 1853 A small group of men met to form the Halifax YMCA, one of the first formed in North America and the third in Canada.
- 1889 Camp Big Cove, the oldest residential YMCA camp in Canada, is established.
- 1895 Volleyball is invented by William Morgan, a physical education director at the Holyoke YMCA in Massachusetts.
- 1917 Halifax Explosion Volunteers were at work within an hour, removing debris, preparing beds, cots and supplies—dressings, food and medicine. Three hundred cases of injured received attention in the first two days with 2,500 people treated in the YMCA building being used for hospital purposes.
- 1939-1945 YMCA lobby and gym used as the first hostel with the outbreak of war. The Halifax Ladies College purchased, adapted, equipped and operated The YMCA as a hostel.
- 1951 The Community YMCA opened in the Old Children’s Library under the name Brunswick Street Division and was renamed in 1954.
- 1983 Our international partnership with the Bogotá YMCA in Columbia begins.
- 1993 The unification of The YMCA Metro Halifax and Dartmouth YMCA-YWCA takes place and becomes The YMCA of Greater Halifax/Dartmouth.
- 2000 Our YMCA has its first woman President and Chief Executive Officer, Bette Watson-Borg.
- 2001 During the September 11, 2001 crisis, known as 9/11, The YMCA provided a safe, comforting place to stay for over 1,300 stranded air travelers.
- 2003 The YMCA of Greater Halifax/Dartmouth celebrated 150 years (1853-2003) of service.