The Athol Area YMCA has been serving our community since 1859.
December 1, 1859 the Athol Young Men’s Christian Association was organized for the purpose of promoting moral and religious influence. Officers of the organization were listed as:
President: Farwell F. Fay
Vice-Presidents: John R. Pierce and R. Garfield
Treasurer: Levi W. Carruth
Secretary: A. V. Dimock
Directors: I. Y. Kendall and R. Putnam
Meetings were held on Monday nights at and alternated between the Congregational Vestry uptown and Union Hall which was the vestry of the First Baptist Church. The meetings were arranged in this way to attract members from both villages.
Officers elected were:
President: Rev. Mr. Stoddard
Vice-Presidents: Dr. Hemenway, A. Pratt and G. Humphrey
Secretary: R. Putnam
Treasurer: Nathan Tandy
Directors: J. S. Parmenter and S. E. Fay
Article in Athol Chronicle asks “Can’t Athol support a Young Men’s Christian Association? There is surely material enough to work on, room enough to work in; and the employers in the town owe it to themselves to throw all the safe-guards around their employees.”
Athol Transcipt reports January 22, 1878: “Series of Gospel meetings held under the auspices of the State Executive Committee of the Young Men’s Christian Association during the last week were largely attended and still more increased the religious interest prevailing here.” The meetings were held alternately between the Baptist Church and the Methodist Church.
Meeting was held at the Baptist Church Vestry and Will C. Wood was elected president.
June 6, 1890, from the Athol Transcript: “Mrs. A. F. Towe, photographer, temporarily in charge of “Y” dining rooms on Exchange Street.
April 21, 1891, from the Athol Transcript: “The Ninth Semi-Annual Conference o f the YMCA of the 6th District of Massachusetts, comprising western Massachusetts, much enthusiasm was created among the young men of the various churches in town… which will undoubtedly lead to the organization of an Association in this place.”
March 31, 1892, from Athol Chronicle: “prominent businessmen meet to consider formation of YMCA; no decision; will meet again in two weeks.
May 9, 1895, from Athol Chronicle: “mass meeting at Methodist Church to organize a Young Men’s Christian League; $180 raised for rooms.”
A suite of four rooms were rented in the Webb’s Block and a reading room was made available to the townspeople.
June 16, 1896, from the Athol Transcript,: “Young Men’s Christian League becomes a YMCA.”
October 22, 1896, from the Athol Chronicle: Ladie’s auxiliary forms and elects officers:
President: Mrs. A. A. Stevens
First Vice-President: Mrs. C. Sawin
Second Vice-President: Mr. G. R. Chaffee
Secretary: Mrs. G. P. Wetmore
Treasurer: Mrs. C. M. Guy
October- W. L. Tisdale of Worcester was secured as Secretary of the YMCA. (YMCA Executive Directors were given the title of Secretary or General Secretary during the early years of the organization.)
YMCA leases entire building at 214 Exchange Street. It housed a bowling alley and pool parlor in the basement and gymnasium on main floor, large parlor and reading rooms. Apartments were on the second floor.
January- membership at 109, 30 lockers added; $5 annual dues, Bible class begins
March 2nd– Basketball equipment put into Y gym “and much enthusiasm already is manifested.” (from the Athol Chronicle) March 25, 1897
September 21st– Girls basketball team to be formed.
November 13th– Ladies gymnastic class to be taught at YMCA.
May- George Fitzimmons hired as General Secretary of YMCA.
Feb-July Artemus Sweezey engaged as General Secretary.
July-December David A. C. Pinckney is General Secretary.
December- John T. Dower becomes General Secretary.
L.S. Starrett becomes President of YMCA.
December 23rd– basketball league forms at YMCA.
March 29, 1904, from Athol Chronicle: “ The first boys’ banquet ever held by the Athol Y.M.C.A. took place Wednesday evening, and was a most successful event in every way.”
July- Four boys, Henry Gerry, Ernest Lawton, Herbert Lockwood and Frankie Starrett enjoyed a two-week outing at Camp Becket. They were accompanied by Secretary John Dower. The boys participated in hiking, swimming, fishing, boating, evening campfires and Bible classes. There were 68 boys in attendance coming from YMCAs in Westfield, Pittsfield, Holyoke and North Adams.
December 11, 1906, from the Athol Transcript: “P.K. Holmes, physical director of the Springfield Training School (now Springfield College) will conduct a big meeting for boys next Sunday afternoon and a big attendance is expected at the Y.M.C.A…There are now about 30 men in the mechanical drawing class. 16 being from Union Twist Drill company, eight from L. S. Starretts.”
March 26, 1907, from Athol Transcript: “It is announced that Laroy S. Starrett has purchased the Pitts C. Tyler property on Main Street and will give it to the Athol Y.M.C.A. for a new building, provided enough money can be raised to build and equip a suitable structure for the permanent home of the Association…. Estimates as to what a building and equipment would cost run from $30,000 to $50,000.”
Allen D. Farrar becomes Secretary of YMCA.
May- At Annual Meeting the following was reported:
Total membership of 153; 76 men and 77 boys; average daily attendance of 21 men and 24 boys. The deficit was reduced from over $500 to $138 . Receipts and Expenditures both equaled $2,266.85.
May 19, 1910, from the Athol Chronicle: “On Tuesday, L.S. Starrett, president of the L.S. Starrett Co., donated the west corner of Main and Traverse streets for the location of the new Y.M.C.A. building and placed at the disposal of the building committee his pledge of $15,000 to be used as they may need.”
February 21, 1911, from Athol Transcript: “There was a bad accident at the scene of the Y.M.C.A new building on Wednesday morning when Peter Mercillo was killed and his brother, Frank Mercillo was badly injured.
April 25, 1911- More than 1000 people gathered at the Y.M.C.A. for the cornerstone ceremony.
October 1911, J.S. Bloom engaged as Secretary.
March 15, 1912- Building Dedication – the new Y.M.C.A. was dedicated. The building has three floors, basement and sub-basement. There is a bowling alley, gymnasium, shower and locker areas, reading rooms, offices, billiard parlor, coat room and toilets. The building cost approximately $47,000 and $8,000 for furnishings. The building opened debt-free.
August, 1912- Roy N. Berry becomes YMCA Secretary.
Membership reaches 400.
Dormitory Men’s Reunion and banquet held in November. Since the opening of the building in 1912, 444 different men had occupied the rooms during those four years.
Plans for enlargement to Y.M.C.A. are underway. Plans include the addition of a swimming pool, a new washroom and 11 additional dormitory rooms.
March 15, 1917, from the Athol Chronicle: “ground broken for the erection of the new swimming pool additions at the Athol YMCA.
June 14, 1917- article in Athol Chronicle reports on the Y.M.C.A.’s campaign to help in the national welfare of soldiers and sailors. A soldier writes from somewhere in France “Dear Father- The weather is clearing up slowly but it is quite muddy yet. Our boys did their best on Vimy Ridge, as you will see by the papers. Well, thank God, I am still alive through it all. The boys are feeling well and happy considering the times. The Y.M.C.A. are the soldiers’ friends in this country. If you donate any money give it to the Y.M.C.A. and Red Cross. They certainly deserve their share of praise in this situation.”
January 8, 1918, the new Y.M.C.A. building opened.
March, 1918- Edmund K. Moody becomes Y.M.C.A. Secretary.
February 11, 1918-Alexander P. “Johnnie” Johnstone arrives in Athol and works as Boy’s Secretary until given a leave of absence due to the war.
April 1918- Boy Scout Troop 17 organized in Athol.
February 13, 1919, from the Athol Chronicle: -Miss Mildred Maxey of Boston is hired as an instructor of the class for girls and women of the ladies department. She is an expert in gymnasium work, dances and swimming.
July, 1919- Johnnie Johnstone resumes position as Boy’s Secretary after his service in the war.
February- Women’s basketball league forms at Y.M.C.A.
July- Industrial athletic league proposed for Athol Y.M.C.A. by state Y officials.
Friendly Indian Club formed at Y.M.C.A.
December- C.E. Towne succeeds Edmund K. Moody as Y.M.C.A. Secretary.
February- Thomas S. Smith becomes Y.M.C.A. Secretary
July 1921- Johnnie Johnstone begins first camping at Camp Wiyaka in Richmond, NH.
July 5, 1921, from Athol Transcipt, – Dempsey and Carpentier boxing match results relayed via telegraph from YMCA steps to large crowd awaiting in Starrett Square.
May 11, 1922, Advertisement in the Athol Chronicle- Moving Pictures at Y.M.C.A. – Alice in Wonderland and Jack in the Beanstalk.
January 1923- Alexander P. “Johnnie” Johnstone becomes the new Y.M.C.A. secretary.
June-annual report of YMCA lists 39,553 check-ins of boys and girls in YMCA programs since May 1922.
November 10, 1925, from the Athol Transcript: -“The annual Membership Drive of the Y.M.C.A. ended last week Monday evening and resulted in a total received from pledges and cash of $6,393.”
Athol YMCA wins 2 National Y championships in the Hexathalon.
July-The 1st Annual meeting of Camp Wiyaka, Inc.
June- Oliver Massey begins fulltime work at YMCA as office secretary.
July- Life-saving lessons at Lake Ellis are sponsored by Y.M.C.A.
YMCA bowling alleys changed to men’s exercise room.
October 29, 1932- Boy Scout Troop # 38 chartered due to growing scouting interest at Y.M.C.A.
March 16, 1933 YMCA organizes first Cub Scout Pack in Athol, Oliver Massey is leader.
April 5, 1935, Athol Daily News: -“In the six month period from October 1 to April 1, 16,609 people used the athletic equipment at the Y.M.C.A. This is a jump of 3,701 over the previous half year.”
September 15, 1938, from the Athol Daily News: -“Formation of a new club for junior boys at the Athol Y.M.C.A. was announced this week by John Eaton and Oliver Massey, who are in charge. The club, which will organize under the name of the “Turtle Club” will take in boys 7 to 11 years. Much of the activity will be devoted to gymnasium periods, and to swimming…”
Oliver Massey forms Hi-Y Club for boys at the YMCA.
Article in Athol Daily News on women’s use of Y.M.C.A.. Johnnie Johnstone states that 200-250 Y members are women. Women currently have use of the facility on Tuesdays but plans to turn the facility over for two days per week are possible.
July 9, 1943, from Athol Daily News: -Hi-Y Club launches a drive to secure funds to build a chapel in the Y.M.C.A. to be dedicated to all Y boys serving in the armed forces.
“Hi From the Y” became a weekly column in the Athol Daily News. Written by Johnnie Johnstone and Oliver Massey, it was designed to give Athol soldiers what they most wanted- a real tie to home. In the spring of 1943 a table, stationary, pen and ink were made available to anyone who wanted to come in and write a letter.
May 29, 1944, from the Daily News, – The Athol Y.M.C.A. has purchased the Fuller property at 43 Traverse Street from Mrs. Frank W. Fuller for $7,000. This property stands next to the Y.M.C.A. and will later be used in building developments.
May 3, 1945, from the Athol Daily News: – “It was announced by Arthur H. Starrett, president of the Athol Y.M.C.A. that the Y had accepted a gift of 80 acres of land in the pipe-line district located near the Bearsden Cut, from John Swan, Athol businessman.”
Annual Meeting held June 27, 1950:
Officers Elected: President: Arthur H. Starrett, Vice-President: Ralph D. Sutherland; Treasurer: Robert L. Dexter; Clerk: Edmond Leach. Directors elected were: John W. Campbell, Robert L. Dexter, Richmond MacKay, Roy F. Cooke, William K. Durfee, James H. Salevan, Robert L. Tyler.
Oliver Massy forms Tri-Hi Y Club for girls at the YMCA.
January 15, 1954- a fire erupted at the Y.M.C.A. causing about $20,000 worth of damages. No injuries were reported. Mr. and Mrs. Johnstone cleared the building of all boys and tenants.
February 11, 1955, from Athol Daily News: -“ Charles R. Stone , former Athol Daily News sportswriter, has been named YMCA youth director and boys’ physical education director by Arthur H. Starrett, YMCA president. Mr. Stone, who for the past decade has been active in organizing and directing athletic activities for youth, is to start his new duties immediately.
From Athol Daily News Sports Corner by Eddie Lefsyk: “Bruce Boccardy takes care of the night sport activities at the “Y” and if you think that’s an easy task, try it sometime. He referees the volleyball and basketball games, and brother, that’s a job in itself.”
October- Athol YMCA receives gift of seven acres of land in memory of Police Capt. Earl H. Grimes. The land is off of Green Street.
August- YMCA purchases Willam G. Lord property at 57 Traverse Street. The plan for the property is to use it for YMCA expansion. Lord was the town historian and a leading citizen.
September- William R. King is hired as physical director to replace Bruce Boccardy who will serve in an advisory capacity.
April 25, 1961, from Athol Daily News, article by Richard Chaisson- “Y Building is 50 Years Old Today”, Extensive article on the history of the YMCA building and the philanthropy of Laroy S. Starrett that made the building possible.
April, 1962- YMCA receives gifts of $5,000 each from Union Twist Drill and L.S. Starrett Company. The money will go into the building fund for eventual expansion.
Annual Meeting- Douglas R. Starrett elected President of Athol YMCA, becomes the third Starrett to lead the organization.
September- Renovations to the dormitories are completed. Rooms have been painted and new beds and mattresses installed.
November 25, 1966, from Worcester Telegram and Gazette, – “Bishop Bernard J. Flanagan has issued a directive encouraging Catholics and priests in the Worcester Diocese to participate in YMCA and YWCA activities. The directive reportedly lifts in this diocese a 46-year-old warning of the Holy See against membership in “Y” organizations.”
YMCA begins to study building expansion.
December 11, 1968- Meeting of Architect Walter E. Hagan of the Buildings and Furnishings Service of the National Council of YMCA and engineer James L. Macauley and the Building Committee of the YMCA to review expansion plans.
April 26, 1969- Fund campaign of $600,000 begun for YMCA expansion which will include a new pool and gymnasium and renovations to make the YMCA available for use by both men and women at the same time. Douglas R. Starrett will chair the campaign which will be a public drive involving businesses, industry and civic organizations.
August – Parmenter Fund donates $70,000 to YMCA Expansion Campaign.
May 18, 1970, from Athol Daily News, – “Final Swim Wednesday in Y Pool- Swimming clases will be held for the final time in the present YMCA pool Wednesday, according to A.P. Johnstone, YMCA general secretary. The present pool will be replaced by a modern, regulation size pool now under construction.”
June 3, 1970, from Worcester Telegram and Gazette, – “Cement is Poured at Athol Y Annex- Construction of a $700,000 gymnasium and swimming pool addition to the YMCA began yesterday. Cement was poured behind the existing YMCA building as footings for the rear wall of a 97-by-43-foot pool annex. The 94-b7-69 foot gym will be built just beyond the pool.”
July 1, 1971- Joseph C. Hawkins hired as YMCA program and physical director.
August 9, 1971, from Worcester Telegram and Gazette,: “The doors of the giant new gymnasium in the Athol YMCA building will be opened to the public for the first time at 9 this morning for informal activities.”
August 10, 1971, from Worcester Telegram and Gazette: “ Teen Age Girl First to Join as Paid Member of Athol YMCA” …”The first resident signed up as a member three hours after the opening turned out to be a girl, Nancy Smith, 16,… took out an individual membership.”
September 13, 1971- Open House week begins at YMCA. New facilities open to the public free of charge.
Building Campaign still underway.
March 6, 1972 Gymnasium bleachers installed.
June 16, 1972, from Worcester Telegram and Gazette: “Directors of the Athol Area YMCA have accepted the semiretirement of Alexander P. Johnstone as general secretary, a position he has held since 1923. He is 77. The directors said today they have voted to honor Johnstone by creating the office of general secretary emeritus, the first such title bestowed in the long history of the “Y”.”
Joseph C. Hawkins appointed program and staff director upon the semiretirement of Alexander P. Johnstone. Joe is later named Executive Director.
Saturday, October 25, 1975- Athol Daily News- full-page spread on YMCA programming including pictures of swimming pool, women working on Universal Weight machine, Pussy Willow contest winner, YMCA Gymnastics Team, Trout Derby contest winner and volunteers working on the construction of racquetball courts in the old gymnasium.
YMCA Annual Fund Drive approaches mark of $60,000. Funds are used to support the operations of the YMCA.
September- Victoria Shaw is hired as Girls and Women’s Director for YMCA.
The first Minstrel Show is held as a fundraiser for the YMCA.
March- Luther Otto is hired as Boys and Men’s Director of YMCA.
Athol Area United Way is formed. Joseph Hawkins is a founding member. The Athol Area YMCA is named a United Way Agency.
Patricia Roix hired as Fitness Director for the YMCA. Pat had been working at that YMCA in various departments including aquatics, preschool programs and fitness.
March 1983- Bob Barcomb retires as Director of the youth basketball after eight years of service. Enver Softic replaces him in that role.
A youth soccer league is formed organized by Luther Otto.
Five swimmers from the swim team qualified for U.S. Swimming Championships. They are: Christine Dargelis, Karen Flick, Josh Neumeyer, Matt Flick and Jason Hunter.
500 spectators gathered in the gym for a break dancing exhibit by Free Style Breakers of Springfield.
Jeanette Humphreys is hired as Youth and Aquatic Director for the YMCA.
The YMCA is a founding sponsor for Valuing Our Children, a family support program.
The YMCA receives the North Quabbin Interfaith Clergy Association Award of Appreciation.
Ropes Course and Adventure wall installed in gymnasium.
September, 1998-Kid’s Depot, Afterschool Program for Kindergarten through sixth grade opens its doors under the leadership of Emily Quicksall.
October, 2001 YouthReach! Afterschool program for Middle School youth begins
November, 2007-Patricia Roix retires as Fitness Director after 26 years of service. The Fitness Center is named in her honor.
December, 2007- Joseph Hawkins, Executive Director retires from the YMCA after 37 years of service. The Board of Directors vote to name the gymnasium in his honor.
January 1, 2008- Jeanette Robichaud begins serving as new Executive Director.
December 1, 2009- The Athol Area YMCA turns 150 and begins plans for a year of celebration.
Completion of Hannaford Wellness Studio and upgrade to Patricia Roix Fitness Center.
September 3, 2013 Matt Talbot hired as Sports Coordinator and Healthy Living Director
Matt Talbot hired as the Associate Executive Director
Youth Activity Room project completed
Wall removed in Youth Activity Room to create larger activity space
April 26, 2019 Jeanette Robichaud retires as the CEO/Executive Director after 11 years of service
April 25, 2019 Jennifer Gordon begins as new CEO/Executive Director
March 17, 2020 Building closed due to COVID 19
March 23, 2020 Building reopens for Emergency Child Care for First Responders
July 6, 2020 YMCA reopens with limited capacity for fitness
December 2020 Construction plans begin to update the kitchen in the YMCA after receiving a grant to pay in full for the project. The kitchen will be designed to help us to provide meals kits to families. Estimated start of April 2021.