25 June 2024

YMCA Cheshire joined YMCAs worldwide on June 6 to celebrate its 180th founding anniversary and its global impact. This milestone gathering not only honored the YMCA’s rich legacy but also highlighted its continuous influence through an alumni panel session, amongst many other activities during the evening.

The YMCA enables people to develop their full potential in mind, body, and spirit. Inspired by our Christian values, we create supportive, inclusive, and energising communities where people of every age can truly belong, contribute, and thrive. Created from humble beginnings in nineteenth-century London, 22-year-old George Williams joined with a group of friends to organise the first Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), a refuge of Bible study and prayer for young men seeking escape from the hazards of life on the streets of London.

180 years on, the YMCA has grown to serve more than 65 million people across 120 countries, regardless of age, race, gender, sexual orientation, or socio-economic background. In Crewe, YMCA Cheshire has provided accommodation and support for local people experiencing homelessness, care leavers, unaccompanied asylum-seeking children, and refugees since 1984 across the Cheshire community.

The event thrived with an energetic gathering of community members and passionate supporters like the Mayor of Crewe, former and current residents, staff, volunteers, and supporters from the community. It started at 6 p.m with a welcome address from Becky Parke, the Head of Service and Impact. Mark Hills, the CEO of YMCA Cheshire, who introduced the Mayor (Councillor Dawn Clark) and briefly discussed the history of the YMCA, especially in Crewe, said, “This anniversary reminds us of our roots and the incredible journey we have had.

A highlight of the event was a video from YMCA England and Wales showcasing the YMCA’s history. This retrospective journey took attendees through the YMCA’s evolution from its humble beginnings to its current status as a beacon of hope and support. The video was a touching tribute to George Williams and a celebration of the YMCA’s enduring spirit.


Afterwards, the ceremonial cake-cutting and photo session with the Mayor, the Board Chair (Samantha Ward), two current residents, one ex-resident, and staff symbolised the past and the beginning of a new chapter in the YMCA’s history moving forward. The event continued with a panel discussion titled “The Journey Beyond YMCA Walls,” featuring three ex-service users. These panellists shared their personal experiences and journeys, highlighting the profound impact the YMCA has had on their lives. Their stories were a testament to the organisation’s transformative power, illustrating how it extends beyond mere shelter to provide lifelong support and empowerment.

One of the panellists, Gareth Simm, shared, ‘When I first came in, I was in my own headspace and did not interact much with people. But after a while, I discovered that the more I engaged with activities and events that staff put on, the better I got. I was supported in obtaining my first college course, which transformed my life and led to my being at the university now. Also, before I left in 2020, they helped me find a flat where I still reside. I am forever grateful to the YMCA as I look forward to obtaining my degree.’

Adding a personal touch to the event, art and culture were also celebrated through a full-wall mural exhibition by Alfie Gallagher in our building. Alfie enthusiastically created the perfect design titled ‘Peace, your home,’ demonstrating his commitment to creating an inclusive and welcoming environment. His artwork vividly depicted the vibrant community spirit of the YMCA. 

The event concluded with a networking and buffet reception while Billierena Marsland sang tremendously, allowing attendees to mingle and share their experiences. This was an opportunity for old friends to reconnect and new relationships to form while enjoying a sumptuous spread of food. 

Looking ahead, YMCA Cheshire is excited to launch new outreach programs to empower more people across Cheshire. As the organization moves forward, it remains steadfast in its commitment to empowering individuals and fostering community. Visit our website https://ymcacrewe.org.uk/ for more information on our activities. To partner or support what we do, kindly contact josh.walker-brooks@ymcacrewe.org.uk.