The YMCA of the East Bay was started in 1879 as the Young Men’s Christian Association of Oakland and the YMCA of the Central Bay Area was founded in Berkeley in 1903. These facilities offered housing, sports, recreation, language instruction and character development for thousands of young men.
In July of 2017, The YMCAs of the East Bay and the Central Bay Area joined together to form a single YMCA to serve all of Alameda and Contra Costa Counties. Both YMCAs have deep roots and a strong presence in the bay area community, and by combining resources, are able to deepen the impact and expand member services.
Now, the YMCA of the East Bay comprises five health and wellness center, over twenty child care sites, a state of the art teen center, and three beautiful camps!
The Young Men's Christian Association was founded in London, England, on June 6, 1844, in response to unhealthy social conditions arising in the big cities at the end of the Industrial Revolution (roughly 1750 to 1850). Growth of the railroads and centralization of commerce and industry brought many rural young men who needed jobs into cities like London. They worked long hours and were far from home and family.
George Williams arrived in London in 1841 as a sales assistant in a draper's shop. He and a group of fellow drapers organized the first YMCA to substitute Bible study and prayer for life on the streets. By 1851 there were 24 Ys in Great Britain, with a combined membership of 2,700. That same year the Y arrived in North America: It was established in Montreal on November 25, and in Boston on December 29.
The idea proved popular everywhere. In 1853, the first YMCA for African Americans was founded in Washington, D.C., by Anthony Bowen, a freed slave. The next year the first international convention was held in Paris. At the time, there were 397 separate Ys in seven nations, with 30,369 members total.
Since then, the YMCA has made contributions to many aspects of life in the United States. YMCAs invented basketball, racquetball and volleyball; we introduced the world’s first indoor pool and group swim lessons. YMCAs pioneered camping, public libraries, night schools and teaching English as a second language.