Our History

Our Y

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. Our Y includes four branches – Spokane Valley, Central, North and South branches – 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 7 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 of 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.



The YMCA 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) non-profit charitable organizations


The YMCA Organization

The YMCA organization is collectively the largest not-for-profit community service organization in America. The YMCAs is at the heart of each community life in neighborhoods and town that they are located. They work to gain the trust of their community members by meeting the health and social service needs of 20.9 million men, women, and children. The YMCA welcomes all regardless of faith, race, abilities, ages and income. With that said YMCA promises to never turn anyone away based on their ability to pay. Our strength is in the people we bring together.

Normally at the YMCA a volunteer board member sets policy for its executive who then manages the operation with staff and volunteer leaders. The YMCAs works to nurture the healthy development of children and teens; strength families; and make its community a healthier, safe, better place to live through organized programs.

The YMCA programs are the foundation for building the values of Caring and Honesty, Respect and Responsibility. Local leaders are hired to create a community-based health, fitness and aquatics. In addition the YMCA teaches kids to swim, offer exercise classes, and provide enrichment programs for all ages along with disease prevention programs. The YMCA also offers many other programs that meet the needs to the community such as; camping, child care (the Y movement is the nation’s largest provider), teen centers, and environmental programs. Substance abuse prevention, youth sports, family nights, mentoring, job training, international exchange and many more.

In the United States there are over 2,600 YMCA facilities that are run by paid professional staff as well as the addition of over half million volunteer policy makers on the Y boards, program leaders, and many other uncounted volunteers. Our staff members and volunteers not only work in the YMCA buildings but also at resident camp and rented out quarters, parks and playgrounds; some YMCAs have no buildings at all.

Each YMCA is a charitable not-for-profit, qualifying under Section 501(c)(3) of the U.S. Tax Code. Each 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.