TO PUT CHRISTIAN PRINCIPLES INTO PRACTICE THROUGH PROGRAMS THAT BUILD CHARACTER AND PROMOTE A HEALTHY SPIRIT, MIND AND BODY FOR ALL.
The mission of the YMCA of Pawtucket, Inc. as part of a world wide fellowship is to provide services and activities which help people regardless of age, sex, race, or religion, to develop in mind, body and spirit; to recognize and fulfill their responsibilities to the family, the community and each other; and to improve their health and lifestyles. In keeping with its mission the YMCA’s goals are:
- Health Enhancement
Provide a comprehensive quality program of health and fitness services that will promote healthy lifestyles in the community
- Lifetime Skills Development
Provide a comprehensive developmental program to enhance the learning experiences of children
- Strengthening The Family
Provide a broad range program of services to enhance family participation, parent-child relationship and family unity
The Young Men’s Christian Association came to Pawtucket. It was founded by a small group of civic leaders. The first meeting was held at Park Place Congregational Church on December 20, 1889. H. W. Harrub was elected as the chairman and a constitution was established. Months later, the Y.M.C.A. took up occupancy at the Kinyon Block Building on North Union and Broad Streets. Early meetings were attended by working men who got together to engage in positive activities.
The Pawtucket Y.M.C.A. took a ten-year lease on the second floor of the new Taylor Building on Broad St. The building was erected by Ramson C. Taylor on the site of the old Pawtucket Street Railway Depot. This year, the Evening Times published an article describing the excitement that was being generated in the community about such a move. The former location in the Kinyon building was no longer adequate to accommodate the influx of new members that were joining the Y.M.C.A. at a steady rate. Also, The floors were not equipped to handle the exercise classes
After the turn of the century, the trend for expansion and a need for a more permanent site prompted the Directors to search for a new location. In 1903, the site of the present YMCA on Summer and Maple Streets was purchased for $18,000. Construction began on the new building in 1905.
The Pawtucket/Central Falls YMCA opened its new building on Summer and Maple Streets to the public. It had a reading room, parlor, game room, men’s locker room, gymnasium and bowling alley. The new building allowed for membership growth and to expand program offerings. During the same period, the YMCA movement was gaining popularity across the nation. Early YMCAs created a number of programs to make vocational and higher education available to more people, especially working-class Americans. The International YMCA Training School in Springfield, Massachusetts invented Basketball and other popular sports. The sports were also enjoyed by local YMCA members. It remains home of the Pawtucket Family YMCA today.
The Y.M.C.A. continued to grow rapidly. and in April of 1916 purchased a 65-acre farm in Coventry, Rhode Island, now called Camp Westwood. The price was $1,500 for the farm and buildings. Board President, John Johnston named the camp after his niece, Miss Arlene Westwood. After the purchase, the Y.M.C.A. commisioned Henry Vigeant to build the Mirimichi (Indian name for gathering place); a dining hall for the campers. Camp Westwood still provides an opportunity for city youngsters to enjoy the summer months in a country atmosphere.
Campers at Camp Westwood could now enjoy water rights on the Quidnick Reservoir. In the 1940s a group of land owners and the Pawtucket YMCA approached the Quidnick Reservoir Company and they purchased the property owned by the company which included the dam and water flowage rights. This property and these rights were turned over to the YMCA in 1940. Today, families continue to enjoy the reservoir.
Shortly after World War II, YMCA “outposts” such as the Ten Mile in Pinecrest, the Darlington Plains and Fairlawn Post in Pawtucket were created. The YMCA outposts were developed to host youth activities and camps to area youth. They were functioning for quite awhile. They were slowly dismantled over the years. The final land for Darlington was sold in the early 1980s.
In 1950, Ray Larsen, YMCA General Director, was seeking land to establish a day camp for children from Pawtucket and Central Falls. He came upon an old dairy farm in Lincoln. A local businessman, Norman MacColl, came forward and offered to give the YMCA the $55,000 needed to purchase the property. Soon after the purchase the YMCA built a large pool for a family swim club and to serve as resource for the day camp program. Route 146 was being built at the time so the YMCA permitted the State to dump excess soil on the property and create two new ball fields for the camp. The original dairy barn was saved and converted to a program center and still functions today as a gathering place for youth and community programs.
The Pawtucket Family YMCA installs an addition to its existing building to house its new pool. Before this was built, there was a tiny pool in the men’s locker room. Shortly after the new pool was built, the YMCA opened up swimming to male and females and to expand its programming to include a family aquatics program.
The Pawtucket YMCA ended its residency program for men and closed its dormitories. The program began in the 1920s to help young men find a place to stay while looking for work in factories. In its heyday, the YMCA had 44 rooms filled. Because of revised fire codes, the program needed to be shut down. Acting Executive Director, Robert Bendl assisted the men with relocation. This left the top floors of the Family YMCA unoccupied for many years.
In August of 1998, Heritage Park YMCA opened its doors on Roosevelt Ave. in Pawtucket, RI. The center was created because of the growing need for safe, affordable and convenient childcare for infants, toddlers and preschoolers in the area. Before the center, childcare for this age group was offered at St. Paul’s Church in a program called “Little Rascals”. Today, Heritage Park YMCA provides childcare to approximately 300 children on a daily basis. The center is one of the largest of its type in Rhode Island. The need for childcare for families continued in Blackstone Valley. In 2010, the YMCA opened Four Corners Early Learning Center in Cumberland, RI. It renovated the old Mossberg Steel Company and developed it into a state-of-the-art facility. The center operates today providing childcare to approximately 150 children on a daily basis. Both childcare centers have high ratings with BrightStars, Rhode Island’s quality rating and improvement system in childcare and early learning programs.
The Board of Directors finished a major renovation of the Pawtucket Family YMCA on Summer St. This upgrade was to modernize the building. The goal was to keep it viable for its members in the long term. The building was basically gutted out while keeping the historic exterior intact. Construction eliminated the walking track, the defunct bowling alley, squash courts and many other rooms that were no longer popular. The reclaimed space was reallocated to provide a full-size gymnasium, a 23ft rock wall, a children’s play gym, an expanded 2-level fitness center with other fitness purpose rooms and to be handicapped-accessible. After reopening, the Family Y redesigned its programming to accommodate its offerings to include all age groups from youth to older active adults. This project was recognized by “YMCA of the USA’s Facility Excellence Award”. Today, the Family Y operates at full capacity giving families many resources to live healthier lives.
MacColl YMCA hosted a “Topping Off Event” to place the last girder in place in the new building. In 2012, MacColl YMCA opened the doors to its new two-story 50,000 square foot year-round facility. It took 15 months to complete. MacColl Field had provided childcare, swimming, camping and other successful family programs for over 60 years. At grand opening, MacColl dropped the Field in its name and became a full YMCA facility. The state-of-the-art building includes a 25-yard family pool, a “kiddy” pool with slide, fitness center with locker rooms and showers, a high school sized gymnasium, a 30 foot climbing wall and program rooms. In addition, the YMCA also converted two existing year-round buildings on the grounds to expand its capacity for preschool early learning and teen programming. Since its opening, MacColl currently has more than 11,000 members and continues to grow. MacColl also revamped its programming to meet the needs of family members of any age group.
Members of the Greater Woonsocket YMCA held a special vote to become part of the YMCA of Pawtucket. In 1901, the YMCA’s original brick building was built. The pool part of the YMCA building was the old Woonsocket Post Office which served the community for 65 years. The meeting was held at the Woonsocket Senior Center. Members voted to merge with the YMCA of Pawtucket in order to pool together resources to offer members and the community a more stable environment. The Woonsocket YMCA is known for its high quality swim team and youth basketball program.
America’s Haven: The YMCA at 150
This video, produced in 2001 for broadcast by The History Channel, outlines the first 150 years of the YMCA’s history in the United States. Viewing time for each part is about 7 to 10 minutes. You can also explore an online timeline of YMCA history.
Watch the 5 Part Video Series Hosted by the University of Minnesota
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