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YMCA of Greater Hartford History

The YMCA of Greater Hartford has a long and proud history of working with our communities. The YMCA has played an important role in the lives of Hartford since its founding in 1852.

The YMCA in Hartford worked with young men drawn to the city looking for employment opportunities. The YMCA struggled in its infancy, but thanks to support from Colonel Charles A. Jewell and General Charles T. Hillyer it survived, incorporated in 1886, and built its first Hartford facility in 1892.

The Y offered its first structured camping program in 1886 and built the first indoor swimming pool in Hartford in 1892.

Girls and women were accepted as associate members by a vote of the Board of Directors in 1963. The first female members were Mrs. Robert E. Green and her daughter. Hillyer Institute, later Hillyer College, took shape in the early 1900s. Educational courses had been offered at the Hartford YMCA as early as 1879. Hillyer later became part of what today is the University of Hartford.

In 1918, The Hartford County YMCA began serving children in 12 cities of the then poor rural areas. It provided many needed programs through a network of “YMCAs without walls.” Elmer T. “Pop” Thienes served his entire 31-year career with the County YMCA as its general secretary. The County Y established YMCA Camp Woodstock in 1922.

The late Robert C. Knox Jr. was a long-time YMCA volunteer, first with the County Y and later with the merged YMCA. To honor his commitment, the Board of Directors established the R.C. Knox Jr. YMCA Distinguished Leadership Award in 1977. It continues today as the Y’s top volunteer honor.

Today’s YMCA is made up of The Greater Hartford YMCA and The Hartford County YMCA, which merged in 1972. The merger was led by YMCA professionals Philip W. Breux and Donald Warrington, and dedicated volunteers like the late John Wallace and the late Frederick U. Conard Jr., which resulted in the YMCA of Metropolitan Hartford, Inc., commonly known as the YMCA of Greater Hartford.

The YMCA of Greater Hartford in 2016 served over 118,000 children and families, including 66,000 children, in personal development and educational programs.

  • is the largest provider of quality child care in Connecticut, serving over 2,600 children;
  • is the largest provider of day and residential camping in the Capital Region with over 10,000 children participating each summer;
  • teaches the holistic values of sports through year-round, non-competitive, character-building youth sports programs with over 5,000 participants annually;
  • improved health of more than 25,000 people of all ages through health and wellness education;
  • addresses the link between obesity and unhealthy lifestyles with cardiovascular disease, stroke, juvenile diabetes, high blood pressure, and cholesterol now present more often in children; and
  • provides aquatics programming to more than 3,000 individuals.

About the YMCA of Greater Hartford
The YMCA of Greater Hartford is a charitable association open to all and committed to helping people develop their fullest potential in spirit, mind and body. This commitment is reinforced by our belief in living out universal values of caring, honesty, respect and responsibility.

Our vision is three-fold:
  1. to put a caring adult in the presence of every child; 
  2. to be good stewards of the resources entrusted to us; and 
  3. to work in partnership with others to eliminate the disparities in health and education.
The YMCA of Greater Hartford consists of 10 branches and two resident camps providing more than 100 programs and services in Hartford, Tolland and Windham counties.
  • Downtown YMCA in Hartford
  • East Hartford YMCA in East Hartford
  • Farmington Valley YMCA in Granby
  • Glastonbury Family YMCA in Glastonbury
  • Hale YMCA Youth and Family Center in Putnam
  • Indian Valley Family YMCA in Ellington
  • Tri-Town YMCA in Wethersfield
  • West Hartford YMCA in West Hartford
  • Wheeler Regional Family YMCA in Plainville
  • Wilson-Gray YMCA Youth and Family Center in Hartford
  • Camp Jewell in Colebrook
  • Camp Woodstock in Woodstock 
  • Camp Chase in Burlington

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