Over the years, our YMCA has responded to the changing needs of our communities. Today, our Y is made up of people of all ages and from every walk of life working side by side to strengthen our community. Together we work to ensure everyone, regardless of gender, income, faith, sexual orientation or cultural background, has the opportunity to live life to its fullest.

Our beginnings

The Red Wing YMCA was first formed as a bible study group for young men in 1869. An 1875 membership drive resulted in 59 members who paid one dollar each to join. The interest was unsustained though and by 1893, YMCA activities were held in a rented space elsewhere in Red Wing.

  • In 1909, James Lawther gave $51,000 to construct a new YMCA at the present site. The original building housed a pool, a gym, several meeting rooms, and sleeping rooms. At one time there was a single lane bowling alley and a tennis court.
  • In 1916 Joseph Saul was hired as physical director. Saul was to eventually take over as executive director in a career that spanned 42 years. Saul remained a legendary figure at the Y where he served as a teacher and leader for thousands of boys.
  • By 1957, membership had risen to 952. During the same year, a fundraising campaign netted $172,000 which was used to completely change the interior of the YMCA.
  • Joe Saul retired in 1958 having developed a successful basketball program, a Red Cross lifesaving program, and a swim lesson program that benefited over 3,000 youngsters.
  • His successor, Bob Schneider, would be General Secretary for 8 years before resigning in 1966 to assume similar duties in Milwaukee.
  • He was succeeded by Norm Westby. Norm felt strongly about the YMCA as a community resource involving youth in a wide variety of activities.
  • Over the next 27 years ('66 - '93), Norm oversaw two facility expansions (1970 and 1980), a major focus on youth, expansion of programs, and membership growth to 4,300.
  • In 1993, Mark Hennessey became the fifth Executive Director of the Red Wing Family YMCA. Membership grew to over 6,000 during Mark's tenure.
  • The present building was built in three phases. In 2001, a new $7.5 million expansion renovation project was completed. Current membership totals almost 5,000 members.

The Y was a driving force in several modern traditions

  • Inspired the formation of the U.S.O. Peace Corps and Father’s Day
  • Began the first night school and English as a Second Language courses
  • Invented group swimming lessons, basketball, volleyball and racquetball
  • Fostered America’s camping movement, starting in 1885