Our History

For more than a century, many men and women of great foresight, imagination and dedication have led the YMCA of Greater Whittier. Our Y is poised to continue to meet the needs of Whittier and the surrounding communities in the 21st century.

The membership of the YMCA of Greater Whittier has grown from an original group of 117 in 1913 to more than 16,000 members and participants in 2018. Through our group fitness and health programs; preschool and youth enrichment; instructional and recreational swim sessions; Stride program for adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities; athletics; and YMCA Camp Arbolado our organization has impacted countless lives and continues to do so today.

A Timeline of Success:

Funding and our Many Homes

  • April 1914, a secretary was appointed, given an operating budget of $2,861.50.
  • Directing the Y from an office above the hardware store.
  • The Whittier Y was incorporated on July 21, 1915.
  • 1914 – 1916 meetings were held at the Whittier National Bank Building.
  • 1918 – 1923 meetings convened at the Knights of Pythias Club.
  • In 1923, an old barn that had been the Whittier College gym was dismantled and reassembled on Washington Ave. The “barn” served as Y headquarters for 24 years.
  • The New YMCA at Hadley at Milton was built in 1948.
  • Another branch was added to the family in 1964, the East Whittier YMCA was opened in an old Fire House on Colima.
  • A new facility was completed in 1970 for the East Whittier Branch on Starbuck Street.
  • In 1987, after the Whittier Earthquake the decision was made to build a new facility in the Uptown area on Hadley Street and opened in 1993.
  • The locations on Hadley and Starbuck currently house our two family centers and the majority of our programs.

Beginning and Growing the Programs

  • The first of the Y’s famous swim instruction programs were started at the Whittier College pool.
  • The popular HiY conducted activities at the Friends Church.
  • YMCA Camp began within a few years at Big Tujunga and moved to Barton Flats in 1920.
  • In 1925, YMCA Camp Arbolado was established in the San Gorgonio Wilderness and remains the current home of our residential camp program.

National History and Evolution

Together, the nation’s 2,617 YMCAs are the largest not-for-profit community service organization in America, working to meet the health and human service needs of 20.2 million men, women, and children in 10,000 communities in the United States. Ys are at the heart of community life across the country: 42 million families and 72 million households are located within three miles of a YMCA.

YMCA stands for Young Men’s Christian Association, but don’t misinterpret this to mean that YMCAs are only for “young, Christian men.” From its start more than 150 years ago, when George Williams founded the YMCA as a substitute Bible study and prayer for life on the streets, the YMCA was unusual because it crossed the rigid lines that separated all the different churches and social classes in England in those days. This openness was a trait that would lead Ys to recognize their strength is in the people they bring together — Y’s are for all people of all faiths, races, ages, abilities, and incomes. The YMCA’s financial assistance policies ensure that no one is turned away for reasons of inability to pay.

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