YWCA Greater Harrisburg was founded in 1894 to create a safe place for young working women to live and gather. Today the agency provides secure housing as well as comprehensive services for women, children and men.
The YWCA is the leading women's organization in the Capital Region, serving Dauphin, Cumberland, and Perry Counties. Staff work tirelessly to fulfill our mission to empower women and children, especially those whose circumstances might compromise their safety, security or future success.
A group of local church women meet to form a Christian outreach organization, and the Young Women's Christian Association is chartered. The YWCA board rents a nine-room house at 712 N. Third Street to operate Reading Rooms and a Noon Rest program where young working girls could safely come to eat their lunches. Membership fee is $1.00 per year.
YWCA membership becomes so large that it is necessary to expand the premises by renting the house next door, 710 N. Third Street. Here, the residence program begins, offering two rooms to rent to working girls at $5 and $6 per month.
The YWCA moves to a new, larger facility on Third and Herr Streets. Membership in 1899 is 440; 369 active members, 25 associates, 40 sustaining and 6 life members. A young woman can only become an active member by belonging to an evangelical church, but "any woman of good moral character" can become an associate member.
The YWCA holds sex education classes for women.
Paid instructors, rather than volunteers, begin to teach educational classes.
The YWCA moves to a building on Fourth and Walnut Streets, where it becomes a city landmark. Later additions enlarge it, from the original small brick house into the eight-story YWCA building most Harrisburgers remember as "the YWCA".
The YWCA develops a nurses directory and on-call service for physicians.
Fund drive -- 200 workers raise $102,166 in ten days.
The new building is dedicated and the YWCA boasts 2,567 members.
The Phyllis Wheatley Branch opens with 97 charter members in one room of a storefront at 800 Cowden Street to serve the needs of black women and girls.
Mrs. Ella Frazier becomes Executive Director of the Phyllis Wheatley Branch. Under her able leadership for the following 32 years, the organization becomes a major influence in black life in Harrisburg.
Board President, Mrs. Helen Boas Reily, and her husband, Mr. John Reily, donate a 10-acre plot of land in the Fishing Creek Valley for the YWCA to operate on its own camp facility. Later gifts by the Reilys expand the property to 28 acres.
The YWCA campaigns for job reforms for women. Lectures are sponsored on reform-minded topics such as child labor, old age security and world problems.
The YWCA publicly establishes a goal to create an association, or "a fellowship in which barriers of race, nationality, education, and social status are broken down in the pursuit of a better life for all."
Membership in the Phyllis Wheatley Branch has grown and the Branch has taken over the entire building. The Branch purchases a second building next door to serve as the dormitory for a residence program.
The Building Drive realizes $165,000. A pool and library are added.
The Keystone Arrow Club of the YWCA begins a support group for the differently abled.
The YWCA celebrates its 50th anniversary. The Phyllis Wheatley Breakfast serves 1,400 guests.
The YWCA-USO continues providing dances every Saturday for servicemen. The YWCA even provides its chapel, free of charge, to servicemen who wish to marry but are not near their home church.
Club for Overseas War Brides organized. YWCA membership stands at 3,472. The Teenage Center boasts membership of 1,400 teens who meet at the YWCA every Wednesday to dance and socialize.
The Interracial Charter was adopted by the 17th National YWCA Convention, establishing that "wherever there is injustice on the basis of race, whether in the community, the nation, or the world, our protest must be clear and our labor for its removal, vigorous and steady."
The YWCA conducts a housing survey to make recommendations to improve low-income housing in Harrisburg.
Following the lead of the National Association, the Phyllis Wheatley Branch and the main YWCA Branch integrate, becoming one of the first organizations of its kind in the area to do so.
As an "imperative requirement of these times" the 21st National YWCA Convention votes to concentrate on a "greater degree of progress toward inclusiveness in respect to leadership, membership, program, and services."
The YWCA becomes a signatory to a declaration distributed by the Human Relations Council of Greater Harrisburg, refusing to withhold welcome from people on the basis of race.
Upon recommendation of the public affairs committee, the board advocates for support of Senate Bill No. 8, Section 1803, related to amending and revising present abortion laws.
The YWCA receives $67,000 from the United Fund (predecessor of United Way) toward its operating budget.
The National YWCA adopts the "One imperative: To thrust our collective power toward the elimination of racism wherever it exists and by any means necessary."
The Board votes to adopt the National Imperative: the elimination of racism, and changes the association's name to Greater Harrisburg Area YWCA. Beginning to actively support the new women's activism, the YWCA opens its doors to house many women's advocacy groups, including Women's Center of Harrisburg, the League of Women Voters, and the Harrisburg Chapter of the National Organization for women.
Ms. Sara-Alyce Parsons Wright, a former member of the Harrisburg Phyllis Wheatley Branch, becomes the first black woman to head the National Board of the YWCA.
The City of Harrisburg uses its right of eminent domain to seize the YWCA's building. The YWCA is forced to move into facilities at the old Governor Hotel and Duncan Hall (a former private school gymnasium).
Emergency Shelter opens providing aid to the homeless. It is the only shelter in the county open to whole families.
Rape Crisis program opens to serve sexual assault victims from Cumberland, Perry and Dauphin Counties. The center employs one full-time and one part-time employee and seven volunteers.
The YWCA moves into its new facility, the former GC Murphy Building, at 215 Market Street.
Violence Prevention and Education programs are offered by the YWCA's Rape Crisis Services in public schools.
The YWCA's Bridge (transitional) Housing program is established to guide homeless women on the road to self-sufficiency. The YWCA is dedicated as a "Peace Site", making it a visible symbol of commitment to world peace.
The Child Development Center opens, providing latchkey care to school-age children and guidance for teens.
The YWCA begins providing Domestic Violence Services in Dauphin County, including a shelter for battered women and their children, and continues public policy advocacy related to racial justice, freedom of choice, victimization, affordable childcare and housing for all.
The YWCA begins a safe house for families affected by lead based paint poisoning. The YWCA celebrates its 100th anniversary.
The YWCA moves to the John Crain Kunkel building at 1101 Market Street in Allison Hill.
The YWCA establishes the Domestic Violence Legal Clinic. The Computer Lab and Learning Center was opened to YWCA residents and community members.
The YWCA Legal Clinic moves to its new office at 114 Walnut Street.
The YWCA initiates the Permanent Housing for Disabled People program to provide rental subsidies for disabled, homeless women , men and families.
YW Works employment readiness services offered to YWCA residents and community members.
Veterans Support Services launched to provide employment services and support to female and male veterans.
YWCA Greater Harrisburg joins coalition of community agencies forming partnership in development of the Center for Employment, Education and Entrepreneurial Development (CEEED) in Allison Hill.
YWCA recieves HUD grant to provide permanent housing for disabled homeless veterans.
YWCA recieves HHS grant to provide supported employment services for homeless persons with dual diagnosis. Additionally, the grant funds enabled the YWCA to provide Ticket to Work services for individuals receiving disability benefits.
The YWCA Member Associations adopt "The YWCA is dedicated to eliminating racism, empowering women, and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all."