Beautifully-preserved, hand-written notes stored at Meeting Waters YMCA’s administrative office in Bellows Falls tell the story of the founding of their organization back in 1895. The meeting minutes show that several organizational meetings were held throughout 1894 and 1895 leading up to a vote among more than 100 founding members on September 2, 1895. That night, the Bellows Falls YMCA, as it was called back then, was born.
“We’re so fortunate to have the notes from those original meetings,” says Steve Fortier, the organization’s Executive Director since 1998. “They show a very thoughtful process led by dozens of volunteers, including many business and civic leaders. They tell us that our first Board Chair was Lyman Hayes who, twelve years later, would publish “The History of the Town of Rockingham, Vermont.” The notes also reveal the bidding process to secure our first storefront program center, which happened to be in the recently-renovated Howard Block, right across the street from our current headquarters.”
According to the regional Y’s Program Director, Susan Fortier, a common theme over the past 120 years is the organization’s response to community needs of the time. “In our first 20 years of operations, we offered skill-building classes like calligraphy, photography and job training. We also provided opportunities for physical activity such as a women’s fitness class, a bicycle club, and a running race. And, we were partnering with other organizations to bring together strengths and needs. A good example of this is a mentoring program where our Y trained and supported Vermont Academy students who served as mentors of children at Kurn Hattin Homes.” Fortier adds, “This community responsiveness and collaboration are still the hallmarks of our efforts to strengthen the foundations of community through youth development, healthy living and social responsibility.”
Meeting Waters YMCA is a charitable, social service organization serving the Brattleboro, Bellows Falls, Springfield and Fall Mountain regions. It strengthens the foundations of community through youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility. For more about the Y, visit http://www.meetingwatersymca.org or their facebook page.
Photo: The minutes from the September 2, 1895 meeting.