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History

‚ÄčToday, the Y engages more than 10,000 neighbourhoods across the U.S. As the nation’s leading nonprofit committed to helping people and communities to learn, grow and thrive, our contributions are both far-reaching and intimate—from influencing our nation’s culture during times of profound social change to the individual support we provide an adult learning to read.

By nurturing the potential of every child and teen, improving the nation’s health and well-being, and supporting and serving our neighbors, the Y ensures that everyone has the opportunity to become healthier and more confident, connected and secure.

Here’s a glance at our rich history, and a snapshot of our many successes over the last 160 years on behalf of the individuals and communities we are privileged to serve.

George Williams founded the YMCA in 1844.

In 1844, industrialized London was a place of great turmoil and despair. For the young men who migrated to the city from rural areas to find jobs, London offered a bleak landscape of tenement housing and dangerous influences.

Twenty-two-year-old George Williams, a farmer-turned-department store worker, was troubled by what he saw. He joined 11 friends to organize the first Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), a refuge of Bible study and prayer for young men seeking escape from the hazards of life on the streets.

Although an association of young men meeting around a common purpose was nothing new, the Y offered something unique for its time. The organization’s drive to meet social need in the community was compelling, and its openness to members crossed the rigid lines separating English social classes.

Years later, retired Boston sea captain Thomas Valentine Sullivan, working as a marine missionary, noticed a similar need to create a safe “home away from home” for sailors and merchants. Inspired by the stories of the Y in England, he led the formation of the first U.S. YMCA at the Old South Church in Boston on December 29, 1851.

A large measure of the credit for the establishment and success of the Richard Kane YMCA in Bartlesville is due to L.A. Rowland, in whose office several local men gathered when the visiting state YMCA secretary came for a meeting. The year was 1913. It was during these gatherings that the Bartlesville YMCA was established.

The first records show that a provisional committee met in the city clerk’s office on August 13, 1913. An old letterhead reads the “Community Boys’ Work of the YMCA." Officers and members are listed as: L.A. Rowland, chairman; W.W. Jones, recording secretary; John L. Hayes, treasurer; J.S. Sivalls, Earl Oliver, Frank Phillips, H.H. McClintock and C.H. Plunkett, members.

Since its inception in 1913, the Richard Kane YMCA continues to help families achieve a balance of spirit, mind and body by encouraging good health, fostering connections with friends and giving back for a stronger community.