Explore - History

100 Years of Service to Florida's First Coast

The YMCA has been serving Americans for nearly 160 years, and here on the First Coast, records show the YMCA was started prior to 1908. At that time, the YMCA was located in downtown Jacksonville on the corner of Laura and Duval Streets.

We are now embarking on our vision for 2025, which is built on our commitment to nurture the potential of kids, promote healthy living and foster a sense of social responsibility. 

It’s easy to take longevity for granted but it is an extraordinary accomplishment. 

There is a Y whose original charter was signed by Abraham Lincoln, and in 1914, Woodrow Wilson said: “You can test a modern community by its interest in the YMCA.”

In addition to being the oldest and largest social institution in the United States, the Y is also the largest membership organization and the largest provider of child care, youth sports, aquatics programs, camping, health and fitness, day camp and parent-child programs.

The YMCA is community-based. This is why no Y is quite the same. As the saying goes, “Once you’ve seen one Y…you’ve seen one Y…” This flexibility means our mission is broad enough to allow us to do whatever needs to be done.

The YMCA has always been practical. Our founder, George Williams said, “If a young man says he has lost God, first buy him dinner.” He dreamed of a world where Christian teachings were not just preached, they were practiced.

YMCAs have interpreted the Christian mission in a practical way, often including many groups excluded by others. For example, long before the phrase “cultural diversity” was used, YMCAs were at work in the Great Plains with both the U.S. Cavalry and the Sioux Indians. The Y worked with prisoners on both sides in both World Wars. In Jerusalem, the only place where Arabs, Jews, and Christians can meet is the YMCA. And right here in our own backyard, members mix with a true cross-section of the community every day.

The YMCA has always been about development. Our symbol, the triangle, represents the development of spirit, mind and body. Are we perfect? Of course not, but we have always been the kind of place that believes the glass is half full.

At the YMCA, people of every age, race, religion and circumstance are welcome. Our doors will continue to be truly open to all…today, tomorrow and for the next 100 years.

Mission Statement: To put Christian principles into practice through programs that build healthy spirit, mind and body for all.