With the recent opening of the largest YMCA in the world in north west Calgary, and the fact that Shane Homes donated a staggering $3.5 millions dollars to the local YMCA chapter, we thought we’d look into the history of the YMCA in Calgary. Globally, the YMCA was an organization started in 1844 by George Williams in London, aimed at being a facility that promoted a healthy body, mind, and spirit. At the time it was based on Christian principles and expanded globally from there.
In 1902, when Calgary’s population was only around 4,398, the first YMCA Calgary chapter was started. Originally, a library with public reading rooms and classes for boys and young men. Seven years later, the first YMCA building in Calgary was opened as the Calgary City and Railroad YMCA because it was built on land leased by the Canadian Pacific Railway. In 1914, Calgary’s becomes the first YMCA in the world to have a Chinese YMCA to cater to the growing Chinese population. It offered not only recreational and fitness activities, but also vocational and educational programs for Chinese immigrants.
By 1930, Rocky Mountain YMCA is established, but we know it today as Camp Chief Hector YMCA. The first camp tipis at Rocky Mountain YMCA were built by women from the Stoney Reserve. Throughout the 1930s, YMCA Calgary offered recreation and learning opportunities to the masses of the unemployed during the Great Depression where it was later said that ‘Possibly the greatest public service Calgary YMCA has ever performed was between 1932 and 1936 during the depression when, despite the shortage of money, it managed to form and keep alive the Leisure Time League, an organization that offered to the hundreds of unemployed free courses in trades, crafts, arts and provided recreational facilities to keep them off the street and occupied’ (YMCA 2018).
Over the next few decades, the YMCA expanded and grew in Calgary. New branches were added, programs were added to cater to youth and adults. It wasn’t however, until 1979 that women were allowed to join the Central YMCA and other branches, a staggering fact!
Today, there are eight YMCA locations in Calgary and area, serving the community with opportunities for fitness, recreation and community building. Let us know what you think of the new facility in Rocky Ridge-be sure to tag us with #MarkonYYC!