The YMCA of Greater Omaha’s roots in the Omaha metropolitan area are woven into the fabric of the community. Founded in 1866 by a Union Pacific employee, the Y first began its impact on the Omaha area as a place to serve young Christian men working on the transcontinental railroad.
YMCA of Greater Omaha
Omaha was a rough and tumble place in the mid-19th century and there was nothing really beyond bars and saloons to entertain young men. In 1868, bylaws for the Young Men’s Christian Association were introduced to Omaha, giving young men something else to do other than hang out in bars and brothels. The YMCA provided lectures and social events for men. The YMCA was interested in improving the spirit, mind and body of young men.
“The first few years the primary focus was meetings. Leadership meetings, lots of religious study classes – bible study,” said UNO history major Marcia Bennett. As the city grew the YMCA grew offering more programs to young men.
“It was all kinds of recreational activities, but then also education was the major focus classes for literally everything advertising scuba diving you could find all kinds of classes to take, during the Great Depression there was a really wide variety just so they could train people to do everything just to get them a job,” said Bennett.
YMCA of Greater Omaha celebrates 150 years