Beginning with just one employee and a few members on December 29, 1944, the Young Men’s Christian Association of Wallingford quickly became an integral part of the community. When founded, it was stated, “The formation of this YMCA is hoped to fill the need in Wallingford for a youth program which has been accepted as a community need for many years. The program is designed to serve all young people of the town and will also incorporate girls and young women’s work.” The non-profit organization originally offered programming out of Masonic Temple on Main Street, then shifted in 1945 to the second floor of Town Hall, at the time located on Center Street, before moving to its current home at 81 South Elm Street.
The YMCA continued to grow in both size and in program offerings to meet the growing needs of the community. 1965-1966 saw construction of the gymnasium and locker rooms, and soon after, in 1969-1970, the lap pool was constructed and the YMCA began offering swim lessons to the community. Today, over a thousand youth make use of the YMCA pools each year through swim lessons, Dolphins Swim Team, Safety Around Water, Camp Ulbrich, and more!
The 1990’s paved the way for partnerships throughout the town in support of youth development. In 1990, the YMCA/Holy Trinity partnership was established for the YMCA to provide Physical Education classes for Holy Trinity students; in 1991, the YMCA/Gaylord Hospital partnership was established to provide preschool programming; in 1992, the YMCA/Wallingford Board of Education partnership was established for the YMCA to provide Before and After School programming in the 8 Elementary schools in town; and in 1995, the YMCA/Choate Rosemary Hall partnership was established to provide preschool programming. Now the leading provider of childcare in Wallingford, the YMCA cares for over 400 children in Wallingford each year and provides over $65,000 in financial assistance for childcare alone.
Much like with youth development, the YMCA’s focus on healthy living has given way to significant growth in programs, services and events over the years. In 1977, the YMCA hosted its first Road Race, with proceeds supporting Wallingford families by providing financial assistance for programs & services at the Y, fulfilling the mission to never turn anyone away for the inability to pay. In 2008, two community races were combined to become the Fishbein/YMCA Community Road Race, still hosted by the YMCA and held in partnership with Celebrate Wallingford each year. Today, this event helps to support the Livestrong at the Y program for cancer survivors. Since its start in 2011, LIVESTRONG at the Y has helped over 300 cancer survivors in Wallingford to move beyond cancer in spirit, mind and body.
The need for programming to address the health needs in Wallingford continues to grow, and the YMCA has grown along with this need. What does that mean for our future?