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How the River Valley Regional YMCA Formed

On March 16, 1866, the first meeting of the newly formed Williamsport YMCA was held at the county courthouse. For the next 125 years, the YMCA in Williamsport served the community, changing with the times to meet different community needs.

For many years, the Williamsport YMCA, Jersey Shore Area YMCA, Bradford County YMCAs were all separate “independent” YMCAs that had a cordial yet competitive relationship. Traditionally, the smaller YMCAs struggled to maintain their bottom lines while the well established Williamsport YMCA grew larger and stronger over the years. This was due to a number of factors, not the least of which was the fact that the Williamsport YMCA served a higher population.

In 2004, the YMCA of the USA approached the Williamsport YMCA to help the struggling Bradford County YMCA, located in Towanda. The Board of Directors agreed that it was the duty of the Y to help neighboring Y-organizations. Later that year, the Bradford County YMCA officially became a “branch” of the association, ie: The Bradford County Branch YMCA, a subsidiary of the Williamsport YMCA

At the same time, a group of citizens in the eastern part of Lycoming County had organized an effort to create recreation opportunities. Eventually, the group approached the Williamsport YMCA volunteers to see if combined efforts might lead to a future Y-branch that could serve the eastern part of the county. The Y-volunteers agreed that this eastern branch was worthy of pursuing, but that the current business model would need to be changed. So, at the YMCA Annual Meeting in 2006, the River Valley Regional YMCA was established through a new set of By Laws that enabled the newly formed entity to have multiple branches with opportunities for both branch volunteers and board members. The Williamsport YMCA was now the Williamsport Branch YMCA, with the same powers and authorities as other branches. On October 16, 2008, after years of effort to raise the funds required, the new Eastern Lycoming Branch YMCA had a grand opening celebration and opened its doors in Muncy, Pennsylvania, becoming the third branch of the River Valley Regional YMCA.

In the midst of the above, the Jersey Shore YMCA, located in Jersey Shore, Pennsylvania, continued to struggle financially. The YMCA of the USA had strongly urged the YMCA volunteers to take a serious look at becoming a branch of the River Valley Regional YMCA. In June 2007, both YMCAs entered into discussions. On January 1, 2008, the Jersey Shore Branch YMCA was established. The Jersey Shore Branch YMCA became the fourth branch of the River Valley Regional YMCA.

When the new Eastern Lycoming Branch YMCA opened in 2008, it received a great deal of positive press from the Sun Gazette newspaper. Civic leaders in Mansfield, Pennsylvania took great interest in this as they too were seeking recreational opportunities. On September 9, 2010, the Y and the civic leaders held a public meeting at the armory, where the idea of forming a YMCA Branch using the armory received overwhelming support. Soon after, the Tioga County Branch YMCA opened its doors as the fifth branch of the River Valley Regional YMCA.

In June of 2017 the RVR Y entered into a management agreement with the Lock Haven Family YMCA to help guide them through a transition period through sharing resources. The Lock Haven YMCA became the 6th branch of the River Valley Regional YMCA on July 1st, 2019.

Basketball Championship
1908-09 Williamsport YMCA Basketball Championship
Original Bowling Alley
Original basement bowling alley that later became a fitness center in the Williamsport YMCA 1922 building.
1922 Williamsport Building
1922 Williamsport YMCA Building
Early Photo of JS Y
Early postcard of the Jersey Shore YMCA

The River Valley Regional YMCA Today

So now having six branches, serving four counties, and with numerous child care centers, after-school sites, summer day camp locations, The River Valley Regional YMCA is the largest social service non-profit organization in north central Pennsylvania.

The RVR YMCA has approximately 500 employees, who work hand-in-hand with over 1,500 volunteers. Some of whom are on the local branch advisory councils, who also represent the branches on the policy-making corporate board of directors.

The RVR YMCA also works hand-in-hand with over 100 other businesses and non profit organizations to meet needs that we could not accomplish alone. 

Most importantly, we are the largest regional provider of programs that address the Y’s core areas of focus: Youth Development, Healthy Living, and Social Responsibility. The RVR YMCA offers more preschool education, school age child care, and adult wellness programs than anyone else in north central Pennsylvania. The RVR YMCA also provides adult/youth sports, senior activities, teen programs, youth programs, swimming lessons, aquatics exercise, as well as over 100 additional programs to the communities we serve. The Y is always seeking to meet the needs of the local community so that we can be a force to strengthen the foundation of community.

As was true over 150 years ago, the YMCA is still steadfast in the daily work of our Mission, which is: “To put Christian principles into practice through programs that build a strong Spirit, Mind and Body for all”. 

YMCA of the USA

The YMCA (Young Men's Christian Association) is a nonprofit, community service organization located in various parts of the world. It is one of the largest community service organizations in the U.S. and serves people of all ages, religions, races, and backgrounds. The organization was founded in London, England in 1844. The YMCA was initially created to alleviate the terrible social conditions found in large cities toward the conclusion of the Industrial Revolution. Many young men at that time traveled to large cities like London in order to find work on the railroads and in factories. They often worked ten to 12 hours, six days a week. The men usually lived on the premises of their workplaces, sleeping in crowded rooms above the factory or shop. The city streets were hotbeds of crime and unsavory characters, so sleeping at the workplace was one of the safest places for a young worker.

George Williams, a London worker in a draper's shop, organized the first YMCA along with several of his co-workers. The club involved Bible study and prayer in order to offer a wholesome alternative to life on the streets. In 1851, 24 locations existed in England, boasting 2,700 members. That same year, the organization crossed the ocean to become established in North America.

In 1851, a YMCA was founded in Boston. The organization continued to grow in popularity, and a center for African-Americans was established in 1853 in Washington, DC. This particular facility was founded by Anthony Bowen, a freed slave. Since those early days, the YMCA has come a long way but the Mission remains the same.

Today's YMCAs provide countless activities and services for people of all races, backgrounds, and religions. YMCAs in the U.S. offer child care services, job training, drug abuse prevention classes, swimming lessons, and fitness programs for adults and children. People have the option of taking a group exercise class or working out in the YMCA's fitness center.

Some people may not know that the sports of volleyball and racquetball were both invented at the YMCA. Volleyball was invented in 1895 and racquetball was born in 1950. Sports aren't the only classes provided by the organization. It even offers arts programs that teach people how to dance, write, paint, sing, or act. There are even special classes for senior citizens.

Our organization strives to contribute to the well-being of society by providing programs that contribute to healthy families and communities. The organization can be found in Africa, Latin America, Asia, the Middle East, North America, Europe, and the Caribbean. Each community’s YMCA determines local needs and develops pro-grams that assist their own individual communities.