By: Michele DiPasquale
Everybody knows the Y, officially called the YMCA, which stands for Young Men’s Christian Association. But how did such a well-known fitness and community gathering institution begin back when it was called by its full moniker?
Way back during the heyday of the Industrial Revolution (about 1750-1850) in London, the explosive growth of railroads and unification of business and industry drew many young men from rural, pastoral backgrounds who needed jobs. They worked 10 to 12 hours a day, six days a week, working in cities far away from their original homes. Often, these young workers lived at their workplace. Many slept in crowded rooms above company shops and other businesses, which was believed to be safer than the dangerous tenements and streets. During this time, crime was at a high: open sewers, pickpockets, thugs, drunks, and more dangers were everywhere. During these early days, a young farmer named George Williams became a sales assistant in a draper’s shop (an early version of a department store). He and a group of fellow workers organized the first YMCA as a place to live safely and to substitute Bible study and prayer for life on the streets. George Williams was knighted by Queen Victoria in 1894 for his YMCA work.
By 1851 the YMCA arrived in North America in Boston. The new idea of the YMCA, which crossed and blurred cultural lines by bringing together working men no matter their background, church, or social class, was a growing institution and popped up nearly everywhere.
This idea of openness would eventually include all men, women, and children, regardless of race, religion, or nationality, to be welcome at the YMCA.
And at the Lakeland Hills Family YMCA on Fanny Road in Mountain Lakes, it is agreed by all that the contemporary reason for the Y is to give greater access to opportunities that promote health and wellness for everyone. Infinitely more extensive than a place to swim at or use a complete gym, the Y is a community wellness center that offers fitness activities, health screenings, enrichment programs, and much more to members of the community at minimal cost or even free of charge.
“As a non-profit organization, the Y believes in serving the needs of everyone in the community, regardless of their ability to pay the full cost of membership and programs. The Y also offers financial assistance,” shared Beverly Cooper, Communications & Financial Development Director at the Lakeland Hills Family Y.
The Lakeland Hills Family YMCA is a non-profit community organization which serves municipalities throughout Morris County. The Lakeland Hills Y is recognized as the leading not-for-profit community service organization in the area, and engages children, adults, and families to strive for healthier lifestyles while it promotes social responsibility through excellent programs and services. Since 1972 the Lakeland Hills Y benefits thousands of families in the communities of Boonton, Boonton Township, Butler, Denville, Kinnelon, Lincoln Park, Montville, Mountain Lakes, Parsippany, Pequannock, and Riverdale.
The Lakeland Hills Y is a complete health, fitness, and recreational facility that includes not only a six-lane heated swimming pool and a massive, regulation-size gym, with locker rooms including those for adults only with saunas and steam rooms, but also offers a health & fitness training center, a Kids Zone, playground, an Early Childhood Learning Center, summer day camp, an outdoor pavilion and picnic area with restrooms, and after school programs called “Kid’s Club” which operates off-site throughout the area it serves.
Of course, swimming at the Lakeland Hills Y is one of its biggest draws.
“In addition to having one of the best youth competitive swim teams in the state, our progressive swim lesson program at the Y is what most parents choose for their children, since learning to swim is a fantastic and necessary life skill,” said Ms. Cooper.
The Lakeland Hills Y also offers backyard pool swimming lessons, which brings the Y’s professional swim instructors to the convenience of your own backyard pool.
As a community institution, the Lakeland Hills Y is a charity with a mission based on the Christian principles that George Williams and others brought to the first Y in London. These principles encourage members and families to grow in body but also in mind and spirit through programs and services that promote youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility for all.
The Y further strives to meet the necessities of the community by providing services to those in need regardless of their ability to pay the full cost of membership and/or programs. A large part of providing those services comes from the Annual Giving Campaign, Give a Kid the Y. This is an annual event to help those – particularly children – who are less fortunate and without the financial means for a chance to participate in life-enriching programs and skill development, both physical and social. In so doing, joining Christian principles and a unified commitment to nurture children through youth development and promote healthy living with a sense of social responsibility, the Y strengthens the foundations of its community.
The Lakeland Hills Y supports fundraising efforts from nonprofit religious, civic, service, and educational organizations within its service area through the donation of an adult or family membership.
For childcare, the Lakeland Hills Y offers a variety of childcare and camp programs to give kids a safe, caring, and relaxed environment to hang out, meet new friends and have fun.
Children get to watch and absorb knowledge, skills, and values from their surroundings. At the Lakeland Hills Y, the values and skills learned by children in their early years are vital building blocks for quality of life and future success.
At Lakeland Hills Y, after-school and Child Watch programs are staffed with people who understand the mental, physical, and social development of children, the need to feel connected and supported by trying new things, and the reinforcement parents and families need to help each other. At the Y, babies develop trust and security, preschoolers experience early literacy and learn about their world, and school-age kids make friends, learn new skills, and do their homework. Most importantly, children learn how to be their best selves. This helps to make confident children today, and engaging, responsible, caring adults in the future.
Education, enrichment, and leadership ability is taken very seriously at the Y. It is believed that all youth have great potential, and at the Lakeland Hills Y, the staff works every day to help them set and achieve personal and educational goals. Leadership and academic enrichment programs, along with dedicated efforts to close the academic achievement gap for low-income youth, ensures that every child has an opportunity to envision and pursue the best possible future.
The Early Childhood Learning Center, the Teen Leaders Club, Kids Enrichment & Combo Classes (designed to help build self-esteem and confidence through physical fitness and inner personal growth), Wellness Presentations, Red Cross certifications, Lifeguarding, First Aid, CPR, and babysitting skills are all offered at Lakeland Hills Y.
There are also the Before & After School Care programs, which provide a fun, structured, physically, and emotionally safe environment; Vacation Camp which is available to all school children in the local area, including non-members; the aforementioned swimming and aquatics programs, which are a fun way to stay physically active and improve strength and stamina while motivating children to strive for self-improvement, teaching goal orientation, cultivating a positive mental attitude and high self-esteem, while teaching life lessons of sport and sportsmanship so children can learn how to work well with teammates and coaches, and how to cope with winning and losing.
“We believe that lasting personal and social change can only come about when we all work together to invest in our kids, our health, and our neighbors. Every day, we work to make sure that everyone, regardless of age, income, or background, has the opportunity to learn, grow and thrive,” shared Ms. Cooper.