The YMCA Isn’t Just For Young Men Anymore


DULUTH, Minn.- Everyone knows the song, but what is the YMCA really?

What started as bible school for Christian young men turned into so much more.

“This branch in Duluth has actually been providing services to the community all the way back to 1870, although we didn’t have a building at that time,” Duluth YMCA president and CEO Sara Cole said.

The Duluth Y got its first building in 1882 and served as a support space for immigrants. It wasn’t until 1966 that the Y moved into its current spot, a large brick building downtown on West 1st Street.

The location had the only squash court in Northeast Minnesota and remained untouched until its first renovation in 2008.

“The gym looks just like it did back in 1966,” executive director Jeramy Katchuba said. “So if you walked in the gym back in 1966 and came in 2019, it’s almost like you’re stepping back in time.”

Many know the Y for its health and wellness center.

“For lack of a better term, we’re often classified as a gym and swim, but we’re really a lot more,” Katchuba said.

But the Duluth branch focuses on community outreach based on their four core values. T\And their tone is changing moving forward under their first female president in 137 years.

“I’m so proud to be the first female CEO at this Y,” Cole said.

Cole took over in 2018. She’s paving the path for the future at the Y in a way that focuses on diversity and inclusion for women and other minority groups.

“Our Y nationally has a long way to go still in terms of seeing diverse representation in our highest ranking roles, but I think we’re moving in the right direction,” Cole said.

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