We celebrated 165 years of community service with a publication of some Y Stories!

165 Years of Community Building

The YMCA of Greater Halifax/Dartmouth is firmly rooted in over 165 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.

For more than 165 years – longer than Canada has been a country –  the YMCA has been an integral part of the community evolving to meet the needs, embracing change and welcoming people of all ages, backgrounds, abilities, social and economic circumstances.

Historical milestones:

  • 1844: George Williams founded the first YMCA in London, England.
  • 1853: A small group of men met to form the Halifax YMCA.
  • 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. 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.
  • 1952: 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 September 11, 2001. The YMCA provided a safe, comforting place to stay for over 1,300 stranded air travellers.
  • 2003: The YMCA of Greater Halifax/Dartmouth celebrated 150 years (1853-2003) of service.