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The Joplin Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) got its start on February 11, 1891, and within a month, rooms for the organization were acquired above the Keller-Bierig bakery on Main Street.
As the organization grew, money was secured to purchase the Haven Opera House (at the present site of the Joplin Globe building) in 1897, and within a few days, funds were raised to construct a new building at that location. The building was opened on March 24, 1901, just one day after Joplin’s 28th birthday.
By the 1910s, the demand for a larger, more modern building for the YMCA had developed. More than a quarter million dollars was raised in the March 1916 to construct a facility at 510 Wall Street (the current Downtown Y), and the new building opened on June 16, 1921.
Originally the facility at 510 Wall was constructed as a residence hall for young men traveling and living away from home. Before a USO facility was established, the building was also made available to servicemen who were between trains, and Camp Crowder servicemen frequently came and spent the weekend at the Y.
Meanwhile, the Joplin Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) had been incorporated in March of 1905, and headquarters were established at 527 Joplin Street, which included reading rooms, restrooms and a small café.
By 1920, the YWCA had moved to a larger building for the third time since its inception. There, it served as a home away from home for girls and traveling women as well as serving as a community center where classes were taught in Bible study, bookkeeping, French, Spanish, spelling and sewing.
In April 1985, the YMCA and the YWCA were merged to form the current Joplin Family Y, and the facility at 510 Wall underwent a complete renovation to accommodate the new programs and equipment that came with the union of the organizations.
As the number of Y members and program participants continued to grow, the Joplin Family Y’s Board of Directors began to discuss expanding the Downtown facility, and in August of 1999, the South Branch opened at 3404 W. McIntosh Circle, where it continues to serve the community today.
In 2008, it was brought to the attention of the Joplin Family Y that there was a need for child care in the Webb City area. With the help of Mr. Jim Dawson, a key contributor to the project, the doors of the YMCA Heritage Youth Development Center opened in June of 2010, and today it serves 180 children through preschool and infant care, afterschool care, no-school-days care and summer day camp.
To better serve our members, the Joplin Family YMCA will consolidated operations to a single flagship membership center at the South YMCA facility. After serving the Joplin community as a YMCA for more than 90 years, the Downtown YMCA facility closed on July 1, 2017.
The South Y was selected to serve as the flagship center because of its location and potential to be remodeled for state-of-the-art programming.The YMCA’s mission makes it essential that we continuously evolve to meet the changing needs of the community. We at the Joplin Family Y are excited to be part of this transition as we position ourselves to continue serving the needs of the community today and in the future.
Through it all, the goal of the Joplin Family Y continues to reflect the rich history instilled by both the YMCA and the YWCA - the development of individuals, both young and old, to grow to their full potential in mind, body and spirit.