Since 1886, the YMCA has strengthened the foundations of community. By adapting to needs and expanding programs, the YMCA has and will continue to build healthy children, families and communities across Cape Breton.
Steeped in history, Cape Breton has attracted and inspired many inventors, artists and explorers to its shores. In 1886, one year after Alexander Graham Bell acquired the land for his famous summer estate in Baddeck, the YMCA of Cape Breton began in Sydney. Providing recreational and leadership opportunities for youth, the YMCA movement continued to grow.
By 1902, the father of radio, Guglielmo Marconi sends his official transatlantic radio message from the town of Glace Bay. Just down the coast, the YMCA finds a permanent home in Sydney on a second floor of a Charlotte Street business and expanded its offerings.
Fire would eventually destroy the original location; however the volunteer men and women from the association quickly found alternate locations to deliver on the charitable mission. During WWI, the YMCA lends support to the war effort and by the time WWII breaks out, the YMCA owns a new building in the centre of downtown Sydney. Overlooking Sydney Harbour, the YMCA plays a key role in supporting WWII by serving over 600 meals a day to visiting Canadian troops arriving on warships.
During that same time, the YMCA receives a parcel of land from the Sydney Y’s Men’s Club and establishes Camp Barrachois; a residential camp along the Bras d’Or Lake in Ironville. For the next sixty years, the YMCA provides overnight accommodation, leadership and recreational opportunities to youth of Cape Breton. The demand for financial support continues to grow and the YMCA turns no one away.
Meeting the needs of the community, the YMCA expands yet again by doubling the size of the downtown main branch in the early eighties. In 1987, the association expands into Glace Bay with the opening of the YMCA Enterprise Centre and offers employment and entrepreneurship programs.
In 2007, the YMCA and the Town of Port Hawkesbury establish a membership centre serving the Strait Area of Cape Breton and Mulgrave. Soon after opening, employment and childcare program are offered in the Town and surrounding areas.
By 2010, the main branch undergoes a major redevelopment and opens the Frank Rudderham Family YMCA on the original 1940’s downtown location. The new facility allows the Y to build stronger children and families with expanded programs.
Today, the YMCA continues to serve tens of thousands of individuals allowing Cape Breton communities the opportunity to succeed and prosper.