History - YWCA of Youngstown


A meeting is held at the home of Mrs. John S. Ford to organize the Youngstown YWCA.


The Youngstown YWCA opens and begins work in rented rooms in the Clarke Building with a pledged membership of 800.


Plans for a building begin. Robert Bentley leads a whirlwind drive for funds, which in six days nets $181,642.32.


Cornerstone is laid for the building at 25 West Rayen Street by Mrs. L. A. Woodard, first president of YWCA Board of Trustees.


The new building is dedicated “… not as a charity, creed, or club, but as a comradeship dedicated in the Glory of God and the service of young women of the city,” by Harriet Wick Ford, president.


Industrial Club is formed with a membership of 150 girls and women from business and industry.

Neilson Settlement House, donated by Dr. R.D. Gibson in honor of his mother Mrs. Eliza E. Neilson, is opened to handle the needs of immigrant families.

Girls Work—later called Girl Reserves and Y-Teens—begins with two clubs at Rayen and South High Schools with a membership of 55.


A $60,000 addition to the YWCA building is donated by Robert Bentley and dedicated to his mother, Mary McCurdy Bentley.


The first association newspaper-View and Reviews-is published.


The Motor Corps is initiated to alleviate the suffering caused by the influenza epidemic. YWCA women assist the nurses and deliver food from the YWCA kitchen to stricken families in the city.

The Patriotic League was formed to pursue opportunities for the girls of the city to express their patriotism.

1,000 YWCA women assist the War Chest Drive, which nets $2 million—the largest amount raised in the city to that date for any purpose.


Blue Triangle Cafeteria opens. Good home cooking, with an average meal costing 13 cents.

Traveler’s Aid is established to “help the stranger at our gates.” Annette Thompson is the first director.

Business and professional women organize a club at the YWCA to promote cooperation of women in the business, professional and civic worlds.


In January of 1920 the Belmont Branch YWCA opens to the public on property at the corner of Belmont and Rayen. Ella Frazier is the first executive secretary. Activities at the Belmont Y included a pre-school class, Girl Reserves, knitting class, book reviews, and concerts.

To assist women in exercising their newly acquired voting rights, the YWCA schedules nonpartisan talks on current political issues.


The YWCA membership policies are reorganized to “embrace women of all faiths or creeds that can subscribe to the YWCA purposes.”


A bequest from the Lucy Buechner estate enables the YWCA to purchase 50 acres of land on Lake Erie which will be used as a summer resort for women and girls.

A carnival is held at the YWCA to fund the new summer camp, named Camp Y-Ota.


500 young women annually reside in the YWCA residence, paying monthly rent of $15 to $20. An additional 500 transient women utilize the resident facilities as well.

Because of the difficult financial times of the Great Depression, the YWCA offers a stay-at-home camp. The benefits of day camping are available to women and girls who could not afford to attend a residential camp.

Recognizing the need of unemployed women to retain job-related skills, the YWCA forms a school in shorthand and typing; 99 girls take advantage of the opportunity the first year. The second year, 302 young women attended the program, which was subsequently called the Leisure Time School.


10,000 women and girls are served by the Youngstown YWCA.


Talks on sex education are begun in study groups for parents.

Victims of infantile paralysis epidemic use the YWCA pool for the  “Roosevelt swim cure.”

Despite the Depression, 200 YWCA members mount an impressive membership campaign and bring 2,885 new YWCA members to the Youngstown organization.


With medical supervision, the YWCA distributes birth control information to married women.


Enrollment in YWCA physical education programs increases, which is attributed by some to the popularity of shorter skirts.


All freshmen and sophomores of Youngstown College use the YWCA facilities for physical education classes.

1,700 Girl Reserves in 18 clubs celebrate the 60th anniversary of the founding of the national Girl Reserves. The Youngstown Vindicator prints an extra edition and devotes the first page to Girl Reserve activities.

The YWCA, Catholic Community Services, Salvation Army, Jewish Welfare Board, YMCA, and Travelers’ Aid combine efforts to form the United Service Organization to make life away from home more pleasant for members of the armed forces.

To serve the increasing number of women working in war industries, the YWCA organizes the American War Community Service.


The YWCA allots the Neilson Settlement House  and the Walnut Street Settlement House to the International Institute, which will henceforth operate as a separate agency.

The first co-ed camp sponsored jointly with the YMCA is held at Camp Fitch. The first session is dubbed a success by the 50 boys and 61 girls who attended.

Membership at the Belmont Branch reaches 1,251.


With the adoption of an interracial charter, the central YWCA offers a class in African-American history.


A 10-year campaign, interrupted by the war, culminates in the purchase of an adjoining lot for the construction of a new swimming pool.


Central YWCA committees become  consolidated; and membership drives are integrated. An objective study done by Mamie Davis determines the future consolidation of the Belmont Branch with the central Y association.


The Belmont Branch YWCA is dissolved.

The new swimming pool is opened.


“Ladies Day Out” offers young mothers nursery care  for preschool children.


An arterial road system displaces many citizens in the community. This prompts the YWCA to begin programs to investigate civic problems, especially low-cost housing and the availability of pure water.


250 energetic workers, under the leadership of Mrs. Herbert Thompson, L.A. Beeghly, and Carl Ullman, bring in $255,979 in a capital funds drive for necessary repairs and improvements to the YWCA building.


657 different classes or groups comprise the YWCA program for the year.

A self-study is conducted by the YWCA to determine the needs of women in the Mahoning Valley. One suggestion —that the YWCA merge with the YMCA—is rejected in the belief that an autonomous women’s organization can best respond to women’s needs.


Parents Without Partners, later called Solo Parents, is organized by the YWCA.

A program of interracial visits to homes for discussion on jobs, discrimination, and recreation is established.


Operation Re-entry is begun. The aim of the program is to coach older women with limited job experience who may want to re-enter the business world.


The Austintown-Canfield YWCA, later called Y-West, opens its doors.


A residence extension program, designed to assist young women to escape the cycle of poverty, is instituted.

The Panel of American Women, chaired by Nancy Morris, is begun, providing opportunities for Youngstown women to gain new insights into people who come from many ethnic and religious backgrounds.


A capital fundraising drive, chaired by Virginia Shorten and Marie Bokesch, succeeds and results in the purchase of the Y-West building at Mahoning and Russell Avenues.


The YWCA National organization adopts as its One Imperative: The elimination of racism in all its forms.

The YWCA urges ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment.

The Association lowers the voting age of its members to 15.


Recognizing the plight of victims of domestic violence, the YWCA calls together an interested group of women to explore the possibilities of providing an emergency shelter. Celia Curran, president of the Board, welcomed interested women from the National Organization for Women, the Diocese of Youngstown, and the Jewish Community Center to an open meeting.


The Women of the Year Awards are created to recognize the contributions of Youngstown area women. Dr. Phyllis Stoll is the chairperson. Awards are presented to Ann Harris, Gail Patrick, Peg Gallagher, Margaret Linton Lanier, and Doris Neal.


With financial assistance from the 648 Board, CETA, and Title XX funds, a refuge for battered women and their children is opened. Martha Sachs and Lynn Doyle co-chair the successful endeavor. Admittance to the shelter is arranged by Help Hotline for abused women who request help.


YWCA Women Artists: A Celebration is begun to provide an opportunity for women artists to show their work.


Knitting, aerobics, baton twirling, karate, oil painting, and country dance are all offered at the YWCA.


Barbara Wick Transitional House is opened to offer homeless women housing and support.

First YWCA Men of the Year awards are presented to Michael Monus and John Antonucci.


Constance Shaffer takes over as the YWCA’s 22nd Executive Director.


Young Women With Bright Futures awards are held for the first time to recognize outstanding young women from local high schools.


The YWCA hosts monthly Let’s Go to Lunch programs featuring informational speakers.


The YWCA purchased Discovery Place, an early education program, from Dr. Mary J. Beaubien.  The program was started by Dr. Beaubien as a Youngstown State University learning lab.  It was located at the YWCA.


Lupus, Attention Deficit Disorder, and Asthma support groups meet monthly at the YWCA.


The swimming pool, which was in need of major renovation and repair, is closed.


YWCA Discovery Place West is opened within the Mill Creek Baptist Church on South Schenley Avenue on Youngstown’s west side. The site provides daily preschool, after-school, and summer child care. The downtown YWCA continues to offer care for children from 6 weeks old to 5 years as well as summer programs for school-age children.


The planning process begins to renovate the building at 25 W. Rayen Avenue.

The new national signature is launched to highlight the YWCA’s dual goals:


YWCA is awarded $3.2 million in housing tax-credits to renovate a portion of the historic building.  The renovation allows for a modern, efficient use of the building to maximize funding for mission programs and services.  The plans include a complete change from 36 units of dormitory style housing into 30 apartments of permanent supportive housing.  The remaining nonresidential portions of the building will include a mix of commercial and program space.


The Tax Credits serve as catalyst to launch a capital campaign to complete the remaining floors and to restore the historic YWCA building.  The Project cost estimated at $10 million.

The first Women’s Leadership Conference is held in May 2008.


On August 21, 2009, YWCA breaks ground on the historic renovation project.


On July 11, 2010, the first group of women move in the newly renovated Permanent Supportive Housing YWCA Apartments.  8 of the 10 apartments are leased out to former YWCA Residents. 

YWCA Discovery Place moves to the Mahoning United Methodist Church.

YWCA Staff offices move to the United Methodist Community Center, on Pearl Street, which is later purchased by Purple Cat.


Staff Offices move back to the YWCA Building in March 2011.

Dedication Ceremony and Open House for the newly renovated YWCA building is held on June 16, 2011.  This $10 million project now includes 30 units of one-bedroom and efficiency apartments leased to qualified residents, staff offices, child care center, historic lobby, two-story historic gymnasium, community meeting area with a caterer’s kitchen, and empowerment rooms to be leased to minority or women-owned businesses.

Architects for the project were Paul Ricciuti, FAIA and Mary Dennis, AIA from Balog, Steines, Hendricks, and Manchester Architects, Inc. General contractor for the project was Mike Coates Construction Co.  Other partners in this prestigious project were Ohio Capital Corporation for Housing, Ohio Department of Development, Federal Home Loan Bank, Ohio Housing Finance Agency, Ohio and Federal Historic Preservation Offices, The Huntington National Bank, Novogradac & Company LLP, Ulmer Berne LLP, Youngstown Metropolitan Housing Authority and City of Youngstown.

Executive Director, Constance Shaffer retires after 20 years of serving the YWCA.


YWCA Discovery Place moves back to the YWCA building in March 2012.

Leah Brooks is appointed as the 23rd Executive Director of the YWCA of Youngstown in June.


YWCA hosts the 1st Stand Against Racism Event.