YMCA Cape Cod History
In 1844, industrialized London was a place of great turmoil and despair. For the young men who migrated to the city from rural areas to find jobs, London offered a bleak landscape of tenement housing and dangerous influences. Twenty-two-year-old and volunteer, George Williams, a farmer turned-department store worker, was troubled by what he saw. He joined 11 friends to organize the first YMCA, a refuge of Bible study and prayer for young men seeking escape from the hazards of life on the streets. Although an association of young men meeting around a common purpose was nothing new, the Y offered something unique for its time. The organization’s drive to meet social need in the community was compelling, and its openness to members crossed the rigid lines separating English social classes.
Years later, retired Boston sea captain and volunteer, Thomas Valentine Sullivan, working as a marine missionary, noticed a similar need to create a safe “home away from home” for sailors and merchants. Inspired by the stories of the Y in England, he led the formation of the first U.S. YMCA at the Old South Church in Boston on December 29, 1851. Since 1851, the Y movement swept the nation and today there are 2,700 YMCAs serving 22 million people in 10,000 communities spread across all 50 states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
In 1966, The YMCA Cape Cod was co-founded by volunteer, Wendell P. Chamberlain, and a group of his colleagues: John Hinckley, Walter Shafer, Howard Penn, Rev. Peter Palches, Sherriff Tulloch, George Karras, John Kayajan, and Paul Lorusso. The organization was born out of a need to address Cape problems such as juvenile delinquency. The Y was an opportunity to provide a better youth climate with sports, sportsmanship and constructive social leadership and educational programs. Mr. Chamberlain served as the YMCA Cape Cod’s first board president. He was born in Springfield and was very active in the Springfield YMCA. He was a professional in the insurance industry and owned agencies in Springfield, Plymouth, the Cape Cod area and St. Croix. Mr. Chamberlain retired to West Hyannisport where he lived until he was 93.
In 2016, we celebrate 50 years of serving the most pressing community and social needs of various towns across the Cape from affordable early childhood education, to teen leadership and career development and teaching more children to swim than any other organization on Cape Cod. With a focus on youth development, healthy living and social responsibility, we strengthen the foundation of the Cape Cod community.
YMCA Cape Cod Milestones
1966 YMCA Incorporated – Cape Cod, Massachusetts, First President of Board of Directors – Wendell Chamberlain.
1972 Cape Cod YMCA purchased Camp Clark and renamed it Camp Lyndon in memory of Lyndon Lorusso.
1989 West Barnstable facility opened.
1997 In the fall, Lorusso Child Care Center was open at Camp Lyndon.
2000 Camp Lyndon becomes a year round Program Center.
2001 YMCAs celebrate 150 Years of Service in the United States.
2003 YMCA Cape Cod opened the Harwich Child Care Center in St. Peter’s Church.
2009 YMCA Cape Cod completes major renovation project and opens new facilities to the community.