The story has been told so often by now that it is familiar even to many outside the YMCA. A young London dry goods clerk named George Williams supported by several of his friends, formed the Young Mens Christian Association 6 June 1844 William was knighted in 1894 by Queen Victoria. His three-fold purpose was to help young men develop in spirit, mind and body.
The YMCA had earned a national reputation for humanitarian service because of its campaign to provide aid and comfort to soldiers during the war.
And as the nation began to fully exploit the many technological innovations and connections that the war had facilitated and accelerated, the industrial and commercial revolution began and draw young men once more into the country,s urban centres.
From its inception, through to the early 1900s, the focus was on the welfare of young men, and related social concerns. The structure was loose and informal, based on small associations of people. All the work was carried out by committed volunteers. There was a strong sense of fellowship and common bond between associations - and this eventually led to the development of the World Alliance of YMCAs in 1855.
The “triangle of balanced development” became synonymous with the YMCA Athlone movement illustrating its philosophy. The YMCA Athlone still adheres to the essential aspects of the human triangle of development with the exception that it has extended its programme to include females and also become community orientated and accountable
The YMCA Athlone is progressive in outlook, solid in service and relevant in action. From its early beginnings (known then as the Stakesby Lewis Hostels and YMCA), the YMCA Athlone operated under the auspices of the Cape Town ATHLONE YMCA.
During the painful days of apartheid South Africa, on the 11 July 1914, the Cape Town ATHLONE YMCA hired premises at 31 Prestwick Street.
On 20 April 1937, the first “Coloured” hostel was opened on the corner of Canterbury and Commercial Streets. District 6 was home. On 31 December 1981, the Stakesby Lewis had to close its doors and move to Athlone - the Group Areas Act had swooped.
In 1982 the plot adjacent to the existing structure was purchase.
The Young Men's Christian Associations seek to unite those young men who, regarding Jesus Christ as their God and Saviour, according to the Holy Scriptures, desire to be His disciples in their faith and in their life, and to associate their efforts for the extension of His Kingdom amongst young men. Any differences of opinion on other subjects, however important in themselves, shall not interfere with the harmonious relations of the Constituent Members and Associates of the World Alliance.
In Paris the 1st World YMCA Conference in 1855 was held.