A LEGACY OF HOPE
The Legacy of the West Broad Street YMCA: A Legacy of Hope
In 1942 visionary leaders in Savannah, including Rev. Ralph Mark Gilbert and W.W. Law, created the Savannah Negro USO for Black soldiers who were denied services at the then legally segregated Savannah YMCA. After WWII, this USO became the West Broad Street YMCA. Following several locations, the West Broad Street YMCA opened its doors at 714 West Broad Street to provide temporary housing and recreation.
In time, the Y on West Broad Street became the center of family and recreational activities on bustling West Broad. In keeping with the Y mission of serving body, spirit, and mind, the West Broad Street YMCA provided athletic activities, housed Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops, created opportunities for educational advancement, and served as a safe haven for many children and their families.
In 1968, the City of Savannah, in cooperation with the Housing Authority of Savannah, and an unprecedented alliance with the federal Model Cities Program purchased 4 acres of land on May Street, one block west of West Broad Street. On this property, the City constructed a 25,000 square foot state-of-the-art recreational and community center to serve the new Housing Authority Neighborhoods of Frazier and Kayton Homes.
In its new location the West Broad Street YMCA continued to thrive and flourish. Its mission of serving the whole person never wavered and it continued to provide necessary services to its neighbors, the residents of Kayton and Frasier Homes, as well as the broader down-town community. In 1999, Chatham County arranged for a 6,000 square foot childcare facility to be built on the property.
By early 2000, the neighborhood had begun to decline and the Y along with it. Despite the best of intentions, the Y could not maintain a high level of the programs and services needed in the neighborhood. The facility also began to suffer from lack of routine maintenance and repeated acts of vandalism.
But a core of dedicated individuals refused to see the West Broad Street YMCA die. Committed to the community and seeing the Y as a necessary and vital resource, these people pooled their resources – financial, material, intellectual, and political – to make the Y a center for the community. With the assistance of YUSA, the West Broad Street YMCA began its resurgence in 2008.
Today, the Y continues to rebuild its facility and its programs as it serves to help people move out of poverty. It houses an early learning program for children 6 weeks to 4 years, a before and after school program, an alternative school for expelled middle school age children, afternoon tutorials, a public library, a strong summer program, as well as a variety of enrichment and recreation programs.