At more than 150 years old, the YMCA proudly continues to serve people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities.
All of the communities the YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka serves have a unique history that includes a Y presence. Some Ys came quite early to our region. Allandale, now a part of Barrie, is one. It was over 100 years ago that the Railway YMCA opened in what is now the restored Shutters Restaurant in old Allandale. It was only a short distance from what was then the new Allandale Railway Station and it mainly supported railway workers. That two-minute walk began a relationship that helped that community to grow in spirit, mind and body. That Y grew and eventually became the Barrie YMCA.
YMCA Camp Kitchikewana is another long-serving part of who we are. It has been serving the kids of the Simcoe/Muskoka area and beyond since 1919. Its long history focused initially on wilderness and water-based activities. It evolved to include creative arts, environmental and aboriginal history awareness and more.
The first Canadian YMCA was founded in 1851 in Montréal. By 1900, 36 associations had been founded and were actively providing programming to communities across Canada. Today YMCA Canada’s purpose is as a federation of all the YMCAs in Canada. It is there to support local associations in the achievement of their mission.
We deliver Y programs and services vital to the needs of our communities and include: health, fitness and recreation leadership development, child care, community development, adult education, employment training and counseling, camping and environmental education, as well as refugee and services for newcomers to Canada.
We know that our history includes the history of each of our communities. Alliston, Barrie, Collingwood, Gravenhurst, Huntsville, Innisfil, Midland, Orillia, Parry Sound, Wasaga Beach, and other smaller communities in our region, are each a distinct part of who we are and what we achieve. We also have another member, not in our region, not even in Canada. It is the YMCA of Sierra Leone in West Africa.
This active and vital Y is supported through our International Development program. Through it we focus on efforts to help rebuild the country after a long and devastating civil war. In Sierra Leone we help to provide youth and adult volunteers with training in peace and conflict resolution, educational programs, and leadership development.
Yes, we are working from here in the Simcoe Muskoka region for peace in Africa. Enhancing peace efforts is part of Y core belief. Each year we award the YMCA Peace Medallion to recognize a person or group who is a model of how each of us can contribute to peace.
Our collective histories are rich with stories. As we move forward with a new YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka communications plan, one of our commitments is to look to each of our Y communities and tell its unique and special story. In this we will share in the richness of all our communities, understand their individual histories, and learn from each.