History of the Oil City YMCA
The YMCA has been a vital part of the Oil City community for over 128 years. It has been a place of wholesome, healthy recreation, of developing healthy bodies, of renewing one’s mental being and building life-long friendships. Mostly, it has been a place for kids to grow and thrive.The Young Men’s Christian Association is a world-wide organization that was founded in 1844 in London, England. The Oil City Area YMCA dates its beginnings from 1887 when fifty young Christian men, dedicated to building a healthy spirit, mind and body, rented two rooms on the second floor of the Derrick building.
By 1893, a need for additional space prompted a move to Center Street. In 1912, ground work began for a new building at 296 Seneca Street. That building served the community well for over 60 years.
In 1976, the current “Y” was opened to better meet the needs of its 1,300 members. Under the leadership of Henry B. (Hank) Suhr, Jr., the YMCA Building Fund successfully raised $1.5 million to fund the new facility.The Clarion County Area was added as an outreach program site in 1991. Today, the Clarion County Branch YMCA exists as a branch of the Oil City Area YMCA and serves hundreds of youth in sports programs, after school care and summer day camp. The Clarion County YMCA facility serves 1000 members with a fitness center, fitness class studio and a free weight center.
Under the management of the YMCA since 2008, Camp Coffman has undergone a vast restoration. Founded in 1923, it operated as a Boy Scout Camp until 1976. The camp was vacant for a number of years before Seneca Hardwoods purchased it and selectively harvested the timber. During that time various church groups struggled to maintain the property and in 2007 it was offered to the Oil City YMCA. The YMCA now owns the original camp buildings and 240 acre grounds. The Y now offers rentals of cabins, bunkhouses, tent sites grounds and dining hall. All the main camp buildings as well as the iconic swinging bridge have been restored. Hiking trails have been cleared and a zip line, climbing wall and challenge course have been added. YMCA Camp Coffman is now home to the popular Summer Day Camp Program as well as many community events.
In 2009, it was determined that the aging Petroleum Street Facility was bursting at the seams serving 2,600 members—twice the 1976 membership! In addition to the need for extra space and more parking, the building mechanical systems were due for replacement. To meet needs, the Oil City YMCA embarked on the “Building for the Future” Capital Campaign. Under the direction of Nancy McKinley, the Campaign Committee raised $1.7 million to fund the building upgrades.
The building upgrades have been completed and the members and program participants are enjoying the comfortable facility. The YMCA has partnered with the Tree of Life Synagogue on West First Street to house YMCA Child Care. YMCA Child Care is growing with more and more families needing affordable, quality Child Care and the YMCA will be there to meet that community need.
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