The YMCA in Canada
The Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) was launched on June 6, 1844 in London England, in response to unhealthy social conditions brought on by the industrial revolution. Industrialization and the railways brought many young men from the countryside to the cities in search of work. The YMCA played a key role in helping these young men adjust to life in a new and changing environment.
The first North American YMCA was established in Montreal in 1851. Since then the YMCA movement in Canada has been a leader in establishing many of the physical and social programs we value today including; the invention of both basketball and volleyball, the Royal Life Saving Society, the Boy Scouts of Canada, father’s day, the sale of poppies on remembrance day, the first national aquatics program, accompaniment of Canadian troops to war as spiritual and recreational support, development of youth leader corps, outdoor camping programs for children and youth, the promotion of a more active healthy lifestyle among Canadians, fitness leadership certification and much, much more.
Dedicated to the development of people in spirit, mind and body, today’s YMCA is active in 130 countries and 64 communities in Canada. It offers a range of programs to all: young and old, men and women, boys and girls and people of all faiths.
The YMCA of Moose Jaw
The Moose Jaw YMCA was established in 1905 to provide spiritual and recreational opportunities for the young men moving to Moose Jaw from rural areas to work on the railroad. CPR donated the first land in the early 1900’s. On September 20, 1905 the first board meeting in Moose Jaw was held in the basement of a Baptist church. The YMCA set out on a Capital Campaign to raise required monies to construct the first YMCA building in Moose Jaw. This building completed construction and opened its doors in 1909. This first YMCA building was constructed at a location we know now as Casino Moose Jaw.
When the YMCA first opened its doors1909 the main focus was housing young men new to the city. Housing certainly occupied a large area of this first building; however it also had Moose Jaw’s only indoor pool until 1930, when the Natatorium opened its doors. The YMCA also housed a gym, track and various club/meeting rooms, again the first of its kinds during that time. This building was occupied from 1909 to 1972.
During most of the early 1900’s a Saturday for most Moose Jaw children was spent at the YMCA. The Y offered swimming programs, gymnastics, and basketball programs, which kept the building busy with children and their parents. In fact, our role in the development of basketball gives us our first trophies in the sport of basketball. We also housed a residential camp at Buffalo Pound during this time.
In 1954 the YMCA and YWCA organizations integrated together into one building. Not long after this merge, the board realized they would need another building to facilitate both the YMCA and YWCA organizations and their various programs.
In the late 1960’s the YMCA acquired a piece of land. This land would house a newly constructed building for YW-YMCA. At this time the City of Moose Jaw approached the board of directors of the YW-YMCA to build a facility that would conjoin to the existing Natatorium. The City hoped that by conjoining the YW-YMCA to the Natatorium they would increase aquatic programs within Moose Jaw. The city had concerns that the Natatorium was not being used to its fullest potential and the YW-YMCA could offer services from their facility. In 1972, the current facility opened in Crescent Park.
At this point the YW-YMCA had the only gymnasium. City schools utilized this gymnasium to operate Physical Education programs. A few years later a racquet ball court was constructed and second court soon followed. These courts are still used today.
In the 1980’s we purchased our first weight equipment. The 80’s brought a trend of group exercise such as step aerobics. The YMCA was able to facilitate these programs and again evolved with community trends.
In the early 1990’s the City of Moose Jaw began to realize the indoor Natatorium was in need of updates and repair. The City of Moose Jaw debated to renovate and update this facility or to close it and reconstruct a new indoor aquatic facility. It was eventually decided to close the indoor facility of the Natatorium and construct a new aquatic facility in the northwest end of the city, the current Kinsmen Sportsplex.
This closure left long term financial hard ship for the YW-YMCA. From 1996 to 2003 the YW-YMCA no longer had resources to adequately meet the needs of the community of moose jaw. In Moose Jaw we were the YW-YMCA, however noticed that we were not serving our community effectively as a YWCA. In 2004 we withdrew from the YWCA, and formally become the YMCA of Moose Jaw.
In 2003 the City of Moose Jaw gave a one-time payment to address infrastructural deficits to our current building. This one time payment meant that required building updates could be completed. A new roof was put on, the boilers updated and the conditioning centre was also re-located to the second floor with new fitness equipment. These building upgrades brought membership growth instantly! In 2005, we expanded our conditioning centre to 1600 square feet and again adding new fitness equipment to better serve our growing membership.
In 2004, the ‘Playhouse Daycare’ had been serving the childcare needs of North Central Moose Jaw for more than 30 years. Many families had walked through the door of that 1926 character home to trust the care of their children to the dedicated educators who worked within its walls. The age of the building and the years of wear and tear of hundreds of children had taken its toll. With a crumbling basement, cramped quarters and deteriorating walls and windows, the time had come to look for a new facility.
At the same time, the YMCA of Moose Jaw decided to pursue the development of a childcare in its program expansion, as it fit so well with the mission statement of the organization. Nationally, the YMCA is the largest provider of non profit childcare, and the YMCA of Moose Jaw was missing that piece. A call to the local childcare consultant resulted in disappointing news – at that time there was not a demand for an additional licensed childcare centre in Moose Jaw, but ‘Playhouse Daycare’ was in the process of looking for a new space, perhaps they would consider a union of some kind……
A few minutes later a conversation between Jeff Fox, CEO of YMCA of Moose Jaw and Jennifer Petracek-Kolb, the Director of ‘Playhouse Daycare’ started the tedious but rewarding process of merging two non-profit organizations in order to develop a new childcare space. It was obvious almost immediately that the strengths and vision of each group individually made for a great union of two non-profit groups. Together, they were stronger, had more resources and were ready to accomplish a common goal. The first YMCA of Moose Jaw Childcare Centre (the Play ‘N’ Learn) opened in October 2006.
The YMCA is always adapting and evolving to better serve its communities. With the purpose to better serve Moose Jaw residents in the fall of 2004, working groups and agencies within the city identified that a community centre was certainly a priority. In 2007 the YMCA was confirmed as the initiative’s managing partner.
In July of 2008 YMCA management recommends to YMCA board of directors to purchase 679 Hall Street West as it is the best option for the upcoming Family Centre. The Board of Directors agrees and financing is quickly arranged. With the location decided, development begins to move quickly.
In June of 2009 the Moose Jaw Family YMCA the YMCA Strong Start Family Centre is opened.
2009 brought more expansion to our licensed childcare services. In January of 2009 the YMCA opened the Grow “N” Learn Childcare Centre at A.E. Peacock Collegiate. The Centre, through a cooperative, holistic approach, is dedicated to the education, personal growth and development of young parents and their children so they may positively and independently contribute to their family and community.
With 2009 proving to be very busy, another centre development is completed. Childcare was acknowledged as a priority for the Ministry of Learning, and the YMCA was then allocated an additional 125 of the 1000 funded childcare spaces announced in the province. This announcement created the YMCA Discover “N” Learn Childcare Centre which opened on September 1, 2009 at 1224-13th Avenue Northwest and currently provides care to 45 preschool and school aged children.
The year of 2010 brings further growth. In March another childcare centre is opened in Moose Jaw. The Explore “N” Learn Childcare centre located at 510-4th Avenue Southwest serves our South Hill community. From 2006 to 2010 the YMCA has opened four childcare centres in the city of Moose Jaw
In February of 2011 Sterling Fitness is purchased and turned into our second Health and Fitness Centre – the Athabasca Location. This location has an abundance of parking and a private stretching room in which several programs are held.
In August of 2013 we partner with Westmount School to open our fifth childcare Centre – Create N Learn. A need in the Southill are was recognized after continuing housing development bringing in young families.
In November 2013 our second Strong Start Family Centre – Kubiak is opened at 846 Grandview. This centre houses a group of community partners and offers a variety of programs focusing on healthy development of families with children ages 0-5 years.
A large number of sport and recreational teams, clubs and programs can trace their roots to the YMCA. Many of our local leaders and community volunteers attribute their leadership development, sense of community and passion for helping others back to their early development in the “Y” leader corps program, and now providing childcare to over 200 children each year, we contribute to the crucial development and education of children.