1890, that was the year a group of men from the various churches in our area organized a YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Association) in Sumter. They met together on Sunday afternoons and conducted religious services on the upper floor of Armory Hall above the present day Brody’s on Main. Mr. James D. Winn was the moving spirit in this enterprise. Laymen conducted prayer meetings, and the ministers of the town encouraged them by their presence and council.
In 1910, the lot at the corner of Liberty and Sumter Streets was purchased and the first YMCA of Sumter building was erected in 1911.
Some of those who played an important part in this undertaking were: Dr. S. H. Edmunds, its first president, H. L. Scarborough, C. M. Hurst, L. D. Jennings, R. F. Haynsworth, R. I. Manning, Bartow Walsh, E. T. Haynsworth, W. M. Graham, J. H. Chandler, J. A. Mood, W. B. Boyle, J. W. Mckeiver, and George D. Shore, Sr. At this location there was always something happening: ping-pong, swimming, basketball, volleyball, boxing, “rough 21;” or if you were really lucky – a full-fledged scrimmage with a referee, whistle and all. These and other activities took place in this building for 49 years.
A Modern Facility
By the 1960s, participation in YMCA activities had grown to such vast proportions that a new, more modern facility was needed to meet the diversifying needs of the community. Then, in 1963, the Board of Directors, realizing that a complete renovation program would be a much too costly venture, secured 13 acres of land located between Willow Drive, and what is now Miller Road for the proposed new YMCA building , the original portion of our present day location. This new facility was needed for the expansion of programs to meet the Sumter community’s needs. The cost estimate including architectural services, engineering and land was $483,000.
The new building was open to the public December 15, 1965. YMCA of Sumter membership at that time was 750 in all programs.
On October 6, 1966, a resolution was approved to change the name to “Sumter Family YMCA”.
In June 1969, plans were made to add an additional new gymnasium with an indoor running track, new racquetball courts, a new exercise room, and two new clubrooms (fitness centers). Bobby Richardson, the great 2nd baseman of the New York Yankees was asked to help with the campaign. He accepted and brought with him a famous friend, Mickey Mantle. $300,000 was raised to fund the projects.
New Horizon…New Additions
In February 1985 the Sumter Family YMCA began a $400,000 fund drive known as the “New Horizon” campaign designed to pay off the debt on the new additions to the building, expanding the old locker room and adding a fitness room.
By 1990, the YMCA building that was designed to serve 1800 members was serving over 3000. The YMCA Board of Directors took action and planned the “Shaping the Future” Building Program that added badly needed new facilities as well as a complete renovation of all existing building space. One-and-a-half million dollars was raised during this campaign and new facilities such as an Aerobics Center, expanded weight room, upgraded Men’s and Women’s Fitness Centers, expanded parking space and administrative office space were added. These projects were completed in the winter of 1993.
As early as 1995, The Long Range Planning Committee identified the need to keep pace with the ever-changing population. They came to the conclusion that the greatest need in the Sumter community is to provide facilities for our children. The promise The Y centered on providing programs and buildings for better health.
The YMCA wanted to build character and self-esteem for our youth. 1.4 million dollars was raised during the campaign. The Y was able to add the Meddie Mitchell Barwick Youth Enrichment Center, a place where children may come and interact with other children in a well-supervised environment where values are taught. The center was named after 1995 Board President Steve Barwick’s mother. The physical workout facilities were expanded once again to accommodate a larger membership.
The most recent addition to the Sumter Family YMCA came out of a challenge grant for $300,000 issued by the Kresge Foundation in Troy, Michigan. The original plan in was to include an Aqua-Therapy pool as part of the “Keeping Our Promise” campaign but funding did not seem possible. The grant represented the largest gift ever given to our YMCA and enabled this community to have an absolutely complete facility.