Marla Itzkin Speaks to Rotary About the History of the Westfield Area YMCA

(above, l-r) fMarla Itzkin, YMCA Associate Director of Communication & Development, and Rotary Club President Elect Lauren Barr. They are holding historical photos of the Westfield YMCA.
Courtesy photo

The History of the Westfield Area YMCA

Submitted by Dr. D. Michael Hart

Marla Itzkin, the Associate Director for Communications and Development of the Westfield Area YMCA, recently spoke to the Rotary Club of Westfield about the history of the YMCA in Westfield over the past 100 years.

The Rotary Club of Westfield was 3 years old when the YMCA Board decided to build the structure on Clark Street. The Rotary Club helped raise the funds to build the YMCA and met there for probably about 80 years. The Rotary Club has a close relationship to the YMCA and provides community grants to them every year.

The service area for the Westfield Area YMCA includes Westfield, Garwood, Mountainside and Cranford. They are currently developing a Cranford YMCA. No one with financial hardship is turned away due to inability to pay. The Y strengthens our community through 3 areas of impact: youth development; healthy living; and social responsibility.

Here are some highlights of the history of the Westfield Area YMCA.

  • 1921 Rotary Club of Westfield established
  • 1923 Established the YMCA Board of Director and Trustees.
  • 1924 Acquired the land on Clark Street for $18,000.
  • 1929 New building is dedicated with a pool and bowling alley
  • 1930 YWCA established for women and girls
  • 1931 Bowling League is formed
  • 1943 Most numbers and staff are serving in the Military, the building relied
  • on part time help of teachers and salesmen
  • 1947 Y’s Men club first annual Christmas Tree Sale
  • 1950 Day Camp begins
  • 1960 Wallace Pool opens
  • 1965 Bill Bradley dedicates gymnasium
  • 1970 Y offers dog obedience classes
  • 1973 50th annual Dinner held at Shackamaxon Country Club
  • 1975 First woman joins the Board of Directors
  • 1982 First preschool opens
  • 1985 Consolidation of YMCA and YWCA
  • 1989 Major renovations`
  • 1990’s Single rooms on third floor phased out
  • 1991 Child Care at Elm Street begins
  • 1993 Weldon Room added
  • 2005 Bauer Branch opens in former Christian Science Church
  • 2009 Programs begin at Cranford Community Center
  • 2010’s Capital improvement to upgrade main facility
  • 2011 Camp and after school in Mountainside
  • 2012 Garwood Family Center opens
  • 2020 COVID shuts Y down for 2 ½ months
  • 2022 Pioneer Camp begins in Cranford
  • 2023 Membership is 8,500 members

The first Y appeared in London in 1844, when a farmer started a place for young men to seek escape from pressing social challenges. The first American Y was established in 1851 at the Old South Church in Boston. Then YMCAs sprang up all over the country. Now the YMCA serves 2 million people in the United States, and 65 million in 120 countries.

The Y has many firsts: the invention of Basketball in 1891; Volleyball in 1895; Racquetball in 1950; Hallmark cards; the Negro Baseball League; Father’s Day; Night School; Adult Education; and Work- Study programs.  The YMCA and YWCA helped start the USO in WWII.

In 1946 the Nobl Peace Prize was awarded jointly to John Mott, a leader of the Y movement in America, for increasing global understanding and humanitarian efforts.

The Rotary Club of Westfield meets the first three Tuesdays of each month for lunch at noon, at Limani Seafood Grill on North Ave. Guests are always welcome. For information check out the website  or contact club secretary Dr. D. Michael Hart by email at

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