The very first YMCA was established in 1844 by a British man named Sir George Williams. In an industrialized time in London, he felt that young men needed a refuge where they could escape from the turmoil, despair and hazardous conditions of their environment. Although an association for young men was nothing new, the Y offered something unique for its time: a strong drive to meet social needs in the community and an openness to members of all social classes. This same atmosphere of acceptance continues to remain a standard for YMCAs everywhere.
By 1851, the success of the organization had begun to inspire people in the United States, and branches of the YMCA were beginning to spring up across the country. Before long, YMCAs were being established nation-wide, each one succeeding only through the passion and dedication of its volunteers. Boys and older men joined Ys starting in the 1900s, with girls and women joining after World War I. Families became a centerpiece of YMCAs in the 1960s and remain a core focus today.
A Civil War general and governor of Pennsylvania James Addams Beaver saw the positive impact YMCAs were having on their communities and actively played a role in founding the state and local chapters of the Bellefonte Family YMCA. In 1869 his efforts were acknowledged as the charter for a YMCA was granted in Centre County, making it the third oldest Y in Pennsylvania. James Addams Beaver became the first Chief Volunteer Officer of the Bellefonte YMCA. At first the branch consisted of only 24 young men, but, as the organization’s facilities and programs expanded, so did their membership count. Today we are proud to serve over 11,890 members across the four Centre County locations.
Over a hundred years after the YMCA of Bellefonte was established, the community welcomed the State College Area Family YMCA in 1975 and the Moshannon Valley YMCA in 1976. Local Y leaders realized that if they merged the branches they would create a unified voice in Centre County and offer additional opportunities and convenience for members. Subsequently, the Bellefonte and State College YMCAs merged in January 2009, and the Moshannon Valley YMCA joined them in 2012. In 2015, the Y renovated the old Gettig Pharmaceutical building in Spring Mills to re-purpose an underutilized site for the benefit of the Penns Valley community. The Program Center officially opened in January 2016, and the four facilities make up what is known today as the YMCA of Centre County.