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Old Colony YMCA is changing lives through community service
Since its founding in 1887, Old Colony YMCA (OCY) has provided care, education, support, and community for thousands of children and adults in Southeastern Massachusetts. Their Brockton hub is just a hop, skip, and jump from Boston, where the YMCA of the USA was established in 1851 by Thomas Valentine Sullivan.
A retired sea captain, Sullivan knew too well the challenges of being a merchant mariner, particularly the long stretches away from communities, loved ones, and friends. A missionary, he sought ways to support sailors and merchants whose hardworking lives kept them separated from familiar comforts and vulnerable to unhealthy ways of coping when on shore leave.
He was impressed by the work of George Williams, a 22-year-old department store worker who, with 11 others, founded the very first Young Men’s Christian Association in London, England. Faced with the dangers of living and working in the city’s tenement slums, Williams and his compatriots created a refuge from the mean streets. By welcoming any man who needed shelter and support whether they were locals, transients, or immigrants, the London YMCA crossed England’s inflexible class system to create a safe haven unburdened by Victorian-era social restrictions.
Inspired by Williams’ dedication, Sullivan created a “home away from home” for seamen launching the first YMCA in the U.S. at the city’s Old South Church. Over the years the organization blossomed to include people of all genders, faiths, and walks of life. The association became a champion of immigrants, creating the concept of teaching English as a second language (ESL), launching the country’s first ESL program in Cincinnati, Ohio.
For 136 years, OCY has served as a critical link between communities and the crucial social support that their most vulnerable members have been denied. Today, OCY welcomes approximately 140,000 individuals, over 70% of whom are children.
In their 2022 annual report, the organization’s Chair of the Board Eli Florence pinpointed the impact of their work this way: “Whether developing skills or emotional well-being through education and training, welcoming and connecting diverse demographic populations through global services, or preventing chronic disease and building healthier communities through collaborations with policymakers, the Y fosters the care and respect all people need and deserve.”
Serving 31 communities in their catchment area, OCY is one of the largest human services providers in the area and is the largest child care provider in the commonwealth’s southeastern region. The focus of their programming is to “build healthy spirits, minds, and bodies,” for people of all ages and abilities. Their efforts are geared to making lasting social change at both the individual and community level.
The non-profit association is guided by Judeo-Christian principles to, as Florence put it, “enrich the quality of life for everyone in our communities. We believe that our mission is to assist all people to develop to their fullest potential and to respond to ever-changing community needs with a focus on youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility.”
The work of OCY is anchored in three areas of impact: youth development designed to lift children to their fullest potential; education and leadership to gain valuable work experiences; healthy living to promote health and wellbeing; and social responsibility, helping communities meet the challenges of issues such as diversity and inclusion, justice, and helping endangered youth build fulfilling and healthy lives. United in the mission to ensure that everyone has the chance to learn, grow, thrive, and participate fully in society, OCY works to find employment and volunteer opportunities for individuals of all backgrounds.
We often think of the Y as an affordable alternative to pricey gym memberships and as a source for youth development, with camps and recreational opportunities offering engaging and fun activities. That certainly is true, but over time the impetus to improve lives has significantly grown the organization's breadth and depth.
In particular, OCY is committed to serving “at risk” community members, providing access to critical social services. Since earning their first contract to provide residential treatment in 1972, OCY has offered a variety of commonwealth-contracted services to reach the children, adults, families, and seniors who need them most. In 2021, OCY began a landmark partnership with the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health to create an intensive, home-based care and support program for children and families.
Through the association’s Y-Ability initiative, persons with physical and intellectual disabilities get the support and resources they need to meet their health, wellness, and social objectives. OCY’s seven operating branches have fitness centers, recreational facilities, and camps designed to serve these populations. Their partnership with the Special Olympics, and their popularity with the region’s residential care homes and public school educational programs make OCY appealing for everyone, regardless of their disabilities.
“We are committed to strengthening our capacity to respond to changing communities and ensure that everyone (including persons of diverse culture, ethnicity, religion, ability, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic level, and skill) have access and are welcomed and fully engaged,” said Florence.
Since 1887, Old Colony Y (OCY) has worked tirelessly to effect lasting personal and social change. Old Colony YMCA is a charitable, non-profit Association committed to the development of strong spirit, mind, and body, guided by Judeo-Christian principles, to enrich the quality of life for everyone in our communities. We believe that our mission is to assist all people to develop to their fullest potential and to respond to ever-changing community needs with a focus on youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility.
320 Main St.
Brockton MA 02301
Phone Number: 508.402.7886
Homepage Link: https://www.oldcolonyymca.org/