Volunteer founded and volunteer led, the YMCA was established in London, England, in 1844 by George Williams, a draper's shop assistant, to give young men an alternative to life on the streets.
In 1851, Thomas Sullivan, a retired sea captain and lay missionary, started the first U.S. YMCA in Boston. From there, YMCAs spread rapidly across America. Some 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.
In 1881 Dr. Luther Gulick revolutionized the American approach to health and fitness with the idea that man’s well-being depends on a unity of body, mind and spirit. The same year, Boston YMCA staffer Robert J. Roberts coins the term ―body buildingand develops exercise classes that anticipate today’s fitness workouts.
In 1885 the Camp Dudley was started, America’s first known summer camp, at Orange Lake, N.Y. Its aim was to help kids build skills and grow in self-reliance while making new friends. Over the years, the Y created more family and year-round camps and expanded the focus to include environmental stewardship, academics, arts and leadership.
In 1964 a group of local community leaders founded the Southeast Ventura County YMCA and opened our first branch on property located in Thousand Oaks, which was donated by western movie star Joel McCrea. This location is now the Conejo Valley Branch. By 1970 the Conejo Branch was running programs and responding to community needs in Simi Valley as well. In 1984, the need for a YMCA in Simi Valley was evident and therefore, the Southeast Ventura County YMCA opened a branch there, at first operating out of an elementary school providing youth based programs. In 1989, the Y responded yet again with the Triunfo YMCA serving Westlake Village and Agoura Hills with much needed Childcare and Family Programs. Later in 2000 the former Simi Valley Police Station would become the new home of the Simi Valley YMCA. Again in 2006 the Southeast Ventura County fulfilled the needs of the community with the Miller Family YMCA in Newbury Park. Looking forward, the Triunfo branch will be a part of the Westlake Village Sports Park at its completion.
Two major sports, basketball and volleyball, were born at the YMCA. A YMCA instructor created the first group swimming lesson, and the Y was the first to establish certification programs for lifesaving, swimming and aquatic instruction. The YMCA also pioneered and greatly expanded summer camping, night school, vocational counseling, adult education, college student services, and junior college.
YMCA World Service workers were forerunners of Peace Corps volunteers. The YMCA assisted in the formation of other major voluntary groups such as Boy Scouts, Camp Fire, and the USO.