Our History

The YMCA of the Inland Northwest was chartered in 1884 and today serves nearly 70,000 members and 7,000 program participants each year in Spokane County WA and Bonner County ID. Our Y includes five branches – Spokane Valley, Central Spokane, North Spokane, South Spokane and Litehouse in Sandpoint, ID – along with resident Camp Reed, EWU Children’s Center, Central YMCA Children’s Center and 18 Before-and-After School sites serving 21 schools in 6 districts. From the beginning, our YMCA has, and continues to be, well-positioned to address the challenges, and maximize the opportunities, presented to us in the future. Our steadfast commitment to impacting and changing lives remains paramount as we ensure that our YMCA will be accessible to people regardless of age, ethnicity, religion, gender, or income through programs that build healthy spirit, mind, and body for all.

View the YMCA of the Inland Northwest’s 125th Anniversary book.

Watch the History Channel series commemorating the YMCA of the USA’s 150th Anniversary.

View the timeline of the YMCA of the Inland Northwest’s history.

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Our Story

The YMCA was founded in London, England, in 1844 by George Williams and some friends who lived and worked as clerks in a drapery, a forerunner of dry goods and department stores. Their goal was to help young men like themselves find God. The first members were evangelical Protestants who prayed and studied the Bible as an alternative to vice.

The first U.S. YMCA was started in Boston in 1851, the work of Thomas Sullivan, a retired sea captain and lay missionary. From Boston, YMCAs spread rapidly across America, many of which started opening their doors to boys and men of all ages. Some YMCAs were started to serve specific groups such as railroad and factory workers, as well as African Americans, Native Americans and recent immigrants. After World War II, women and girls were admitted to full membership and participation. Today, half of all YMCA members are female, and half of them are under age 18.\

Firsts and Foremost

YMCAs have played a significant role in the history of America. It was at Y where Basketball, Volleyball and Racquetball were invented, and where Camping, Physical Fitness and Swimming Lessons were pioneered. YMCAs helped found the USO, Boy Scouts of America and Camp Fire Girls. YMCA volunteers provided support and services to millions of soldiers during the Civil War, World War I and World War II. In 2001, YMCAs celebrated their first 150 years in America. Our own YMCA of the Inland Northwest aided in the founding of Father’s Day as a national holiday in 1910.


YMCAs are at work in 130 countries around the world, serving more than 45 million people. Some 230 local U.S. Ys maintain more than 370 relationships with Ys in other countries, operate international programs and/or contribute to YMCA work worldwide through the YMCA World Service campaign. Like other national YMCA movements, the YMCA of the USA is a member of the World Alliance of YMCAs, headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.

Did you know?

The YMCA of the Inland Northwest applies 100% of all charitable contributions directly back into our community, helping our friends and family members experience and engage with the Y.

Did you know?

Over the past 5 years, the Y has provided, on average, $1.8 million a year to those unable to pay full-fee membership and program registration rates. Financial assistance is at the core of our work, welcoming everyone to the YMCA.

Did you know?

YMCAs are 501(c)(3) non-profit charitable organizations

Did you know?

YMCAs serve more than 45 million people in 130 countries

The YMCA in the United States

Today, the Y engages more than 10,000 neighborhoods across the U.S. As the nation’s leading nonprofit committed to helping people and communities to learn, grow and thrive, our contributions are both far-reaching and intimate—from influencing our nation’s culture during times of profound social change, to the individual support we provide an adult learning to read.

By nurturing and empowering every child and teen to reach their full potential, improving individual and community health and well-being, and supporting and inspiring action in our communities, the Y ensures that everyone has the opportunity to become healthier, more confident, connected and secure.

The YMCA organization is collectively the largest not-for-profit community service organization in America. The YMCA welcomes all regardless of faith, race, ability, age, and income. With that said, the YMCA promises to never turn anyone away based on their inability to pay. Our strength is in the people we bring together.

Volunteer led, the YMCA works to nurture the healthy development of children and teens, strengthen families, and make its community a healthier, safer, better place to live through organized programs. YMCA programs are the foundation for building the values of Caring, Honesty, Respect, and Responsibility.

Each YMCA is a charitable not-for-profit, qualifying under Section 501(c)(3) of the U.S. Tax Code. Each Y is independent. YMCAs are required by the national constitution to pay annual dues, refrain from discrimination and support the YMCA mission. All other decisions are local choices, including programs offered, staffing and style of operation. The national office, called YMCA of the USA, is headquartered in Chicago.

YMCA of the Inland Northwest
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