The YMCA of Youngstown has a long and illustrious history. It has been serving the Youngstown community since the 1800s. What began as a retreat to protect the values of young farmers moving to the city for work, the YMCA is now a cornerstone of the community.
The Central YMCA in downtown Youngstown is where the building blocks were established. Established in 1872 by Dr. R.D. Gibson, the Youngstown YMCA began at the house of Dr. Gibson’s parents. The YMCA quickly grew and moved to the second floor of a new building on East Federal Street. It became an independent, locally controlled Ohio corporation in 1884, just 32 years after the first YMCA in the United States was founded.
That year, a reading room was opened at the Y to enrich the lives of its young men. In 1906 the reading room expanded to include an educational director. The expansion eventually grew into the Youngstown Law School, known today as Youngstown State University. Additionally, long-time local radio station, WKBN, housed its earliest broadcasting studios on the third floor of the YMCA.
Today, the YMCA of Youngstown has grown to include over 19,000 members and includes three branches that provide programming to develop its mission.
Housed at 17 North Champion Street, in the heart of downtown Youngstown since 1915, the Central YMCA has a strong membership base of local residents who believe in the Y and its mission. Because the Central Y is a long-standing community institution, most Youngstown residents have great memories of visiting the YMCA as children and young adults and continue to share the legacy of the “Y experience” with their children and grandchildren.
Camp Fitch began in the early 1900s as a boy’s summer Bible camp at Muddy Lake near Ravenna, Ohio. The first permanent camp was opened in 1914 in West Point, Ohio. Within 10 years, the resident camp became so popular that it outgrew its West Point location. Thanks to a generous donation from the Fitch family, Camp Fitch moved in 1924 to its current location in North Springfield, Pennsylvania with 450-acre grounds. Today, Camp Fitch is open 360 days-a-year and serves thousands of boys and girls, as well as their families. Spanning generations, many families have three and four generations of Camp Fitch campers who now share similar experiences and memories together.
The newest facility of the YMCA of Youngstown opened in September of 2003. It stemmed from the need for a place for families who live in the surrounding suburban areas to enjoy the benefits of the Y’s outstanding programming and facilities. The D.D. and Velma Davis Family YMCA was developed to compliment the Central Branch and provide a variety of fun and educational activities including an outdoor aquatic center and recreational area.
Read stories from the past about the Central YMCA authored by our very own Al Leonhart, YMCA Historian.