YMCA Founding History
George Williams founded the YMCA in 1844.
In 1844, industrialized London was a place of great turmoil and despair. For the young men who migrated to the city from rural areas to find jobs, London offered a bleak landscape of tenement housing and dangerous influences.
Twenty-two-year-old George Williams, a farmer-turned-department store worker, was troubled by what he saw. He joined 11 friends to organize the first Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), a refuge of Bible study and prayer for young men seeking escape from the hazards of life on the streets.
Although an association of young men meeting around a common purpose was nothing new, the Y offered something unique for its time. The organization’s drive to meet social need in the community was compelling, and its openness to members crossed the rigid lines separating English social classes.
Years later, retired Boston sea captain Thomas Valentine Sullivan, working as a marine missionary, noticed a similar need to create a safe “home away from home” for sailors and merchants. Inspired by the stories of the Y in England, he led the formation of the first U.S. YMCA at the Old South Church in Boston on December 29, 1851. (1)
Mississippi Gulf Coast Blossman Branch Founding History:
Woody Blossman chartered the Mississippi Gulf Coast YMCA in December, 1975, with a love for children and the backing of some local businessmen. Blossman, then Chairman of Blossman Gas Company, had once witnessed the death of a child by drowning, and he wanted to do all he could to prevent it from happening to another child.
The YMCA opened in the former Marmin pool building with a staff of three. Since that day, the YMCA has steadily grown, with not only swimming lessons, but a diverse selection of classes and activities from which the whole community can benefit. Every day, the Mississippi Gulf Coast YMCA helps children and youth to deepen positive values, their commitment to service and their motivation to learn.
Outreach Programs offer parenting skills classes, anger management classes, Families First, substance abuse counseling, and an Adolescent Offender Program that works with the local courts and the families. All of these programs are free to everyone on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
The concept that the YMCA is not bricks and mortar – but people – continues to guide the operation of the Mississippi Gulf Coast YMCA, and will ensure that Blossman’s legacy is passed on to future generations.
The YMCA Mission:
Our Cause Defines Us
We know that lasting personal and social change comes about when we all work together. That’s why at the Y, strengthening community is our cause. Every day, we work side-by-side with our neighbors to make sure that everyone, regardless of age, income or background, has the opportunity to learn, grow and thrive.
Our Strength is in Community
The Y is a nonprofit like no other. That’s because in 10,000 neighborhoods across the nation, we have the presence and partnerships to not just promise, but deliver positive change.
- The Y is community centered. For nearly 160 years, we’ve been listening and responding to our communities.
- The Y brings people together. We connect people of all ages and backgrounds to bridge the gaps in community needs.
- The Y nurtures potential. We believe that everyone should have the opportunity to learn, grow and thrive.
- The Y has local presence and global reach. We mobilize local communities to affect lasting, meaningful change. (2)