By Janee Law
The history of the Huntington YMCA begins in London, England. There, in 1844, the organization formed as the Young Men’s Christian Association, which was established to give single men an opportunity to socialize and engage in Bible readings after a day spent at the sweatshops, according to Frank McDonald, executive director of Huntington YMCA.
The YMCA came to the United States for the first time in 1855, when it came to Boston.
“They started railroad YMCAs, moving down the eastern seaboard from Boston to New York,” McDonald said. “At the time, it was geared towards men and Christians, but today it’s nondenominational, which is really the strength of the Y.”
McDonald has been working for the international organization for more than 30 years. He moved to the Huntington location from Boston earlier this month.
The Huntington YMCA formed in 1912. It enjoyed a 10-year run before closing in 1922 since it couldn’t sustain itself for financial reasons, McDonald said. But it was revived after World War II in 1946, when it opened its 60 Main St. location in Huntington village.
The YMCA operates five other locations on Long Island: East Hampton, Glen Cove, Great South Bay, Patchogue and Brookhaven. But McDonald said the Huntington location is the largest facility.
At 90,000 square feet, the establishment offers a fitness center, modern locker rooms with saunas, a children’s center that features 13 modern classrooms for early childhood programs and before and after school care.
With two 25-yard indoor swimming pools, McDonald said that swimming is a huge aspect at the facility, offering swimming lessons, CPR and lifeguard training courses, water safety and boating courses and a swim team. In addition, the outside grounds consists of a multipurpose sports field, a playground and picnic area.
The Huntington YMCA also offers a gymnasium and studio classes that expand into a separate building, which is shared with the adjacent Cinema Arts Center.
McDonald said that the Huntington YMCA establishes its programs for youths as young as 6 months old, teens, adults, senior citizens and families based on its three pillars, which are healthy living, social responsibility, and youth development. Programs include sports and fitness; camp; cultural and performing arts; dance, karate; diabetes prevention; enhance fitness; youth movement; moving for better balance; special needs programs, such as community connections and sensational soccer; Livestrong at the Y; and more.
For Livestrong, McDonald said that program is free for people who have been diagnosed with cancer or are cancer survivors.
“Basically, they get to join a group, exercise to the ability that they can, and socialize,” he said. “It is a saving grace for a lot of these people because they get an opportunity to talk about the things that they’re going through.”
The nonprofit organization is volunteer driven and does not turn away anyone who cannot afford to join programs.
“If you cannot afford a Y membership or programs, then we will give you a scholarship based on need,” McDonald said.” Last year, we gave out around $175,000 worth of scholarship to folks who needed it and that can be a combination of childcare, membership, swim lessons, or youth sports.”
With its 24-member board of directors, McDonald said the board is instrumental in raising the funds and creating community collaborations.
“Myself as the executive director, my job is really to ensure that our programs are developed and implemented according to the mission of the Y,” McDonald said. “I love serving people of all ages, ethnicities, religious backgrounds. I love making a difference in people’s lives.