Education, improved job skills and helping women find employment quickly became priorities for the first board of directors of the local YWCA.
The list of services was considerably shorter than the programming provided today, but the year was 1902 and community services were in their infancy. The need however was evident and as participation and community support continued the organization relocated several times in order to meet a growing demand on service.
In 1928, the YWCA began construction of a permanent home at the corner of Mary and Curtis Streets and with the new building came the Woman’s Residence Program. It offered women in transition or need, safe housing. Programs and services reflected the social, economic and political climate of the time.
During the First and Second World Wars the YWCA offered First Aid training courses, shelter referrals and recreational services to members of the armed forces as well as the community. In the 1940’s, as women entered the work force in greater numbers and in non-traditional roles, physical fitness programs were developed for them and for school children.
In the 50’s and 60’s, youth groups and the YWCA pool campaign were highlights of the evolving programming. Counselling services, an abused women’s shelter and building renovations were made possible in the 1970’s. As information technology came on-line the YWCA kept stride and brought the community computers, classes and access to the internet. Adult learning, children and family programs, job search workshops and specific women’s programming are key elements of the services and opportunities offered at the YWCA today.
The YWCA St. Thomas-Elgin is rich in history and over the past 100 years the community has given of its time and resources as the YWCA maintained a role as innovator and provider of required community services. The YWCA is proud of its work and its place in the fabric of St. Thomas and Elgin County.