The YMCA of the Inland Northwest will celebrate its 135th anniversary Monday, November 4, 2019. Founded in 1884, five years before Washington was designated as a state, the YMCA has been committed to meeting the needs of the Spokane community as it has grown and evolved over the last 135 years.
While the YMCA is known for its community charitable work and dedication to physical fitness, it is also known for many firsts such as the USO, basketball, volleyball, organized swimming lessons (the first pools were unfiltered, and their suits were of the birthday instead of the bathing variety), and Father’s Day.
In the early years the YMCA of Spokane provided a safe place for young men moving into the city from rural communities. The Jenkins Institute began in 1907 providing training for young men lacking skills needed to find employment in the city. In 1918, young women were admitted into the school, but classes remained separate. That changed in 1953 when the YMCA was no longer just for men. Women were invited in to fully participate in coed physical activities such as badminton, swimming (filtered pools and bathing suits are now the requirement), square dancing, hay rides and more. In the 70’s as more women were entering the work force, childcare became a significant program within the YMCA, setting the stage for the care and education of thousands of youth in our community over the years.
As the needs of the community changed, so did the ways the Y supported the evolution of youth development, family recreation, and physical activity. The first YMCA was built in 1906 at 1st and Lincoln followed in 1967 by the downtown branch of the YMCA of the Inland Empire on Havermale Island in Riverfront Park. Part of the YMCA served as the headquarters for the 1974 World’s Fair. In May 2000 the Spokane Valley was opened with the Central and North Ys opening in 2009. December 2016 saw the opening of the South Spokane Y after the purchase of the former Gold’s Gym and in December 2018 the Litehouse YMCA opened in Sandpoint, ID, formerly Sandpoint West Athletic Club.
The five YMCA locations in Eastern Washington and North Idaho now serve nearly 45,000 members and over 70,000 community members at any given time, participating in a variety of programs such as youth sports, swim lessons, early childhood education, karate, ballet and much more.
At the YMCA we are for youth development, healthy living and social responsibility and believe that everyone should have a safe place to learn, grow and thrive. We provide financial assistance for program and memberships ensuring the Y can be affordable for every budget.