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Overview of the history of Y in Southland

Late 1800s

In 1864 an article was printed in The Southland Times for a meeting to arrange the preliminary steps towards the formation of the YMCA in Invercargill. In 1874 a group of 40 people met and resolved to establish the entity. However, the YMCA was not formally established nor registered in Invercargill with the National Association until 1876.

In 1876, the Invercargill YMCA was formally established at a meeting held in the Temperance Hall, with the Rev. A H Stobo presiding. A constitution was drafted, and Office Bearers elected. A list of 50 members was drawn up and a Management Committee consisting of 12 members was elected.

In 1895 a building committee was established, who fundraised enough money to appoint W Lockart to erect a building on the Association’s site in Kelvin Street. The price was £473. Several hundred people attended the opening in 1896. The new hall became popular for meetings and functions.

Early 1900s

In 1906 a YMCA Brass Band was brought into being to add life to gatherings of Christian workers and to offer young men a means of profitably occupying their hours. The band gave performances at the rotunda in Queen’s Park and at the water tower grounds.

In 1908 the membership trebled (411 financial members) and a new site was purchased in Tay Street for £1,700 (note this is a different site from the current 77 Tay Street site). An overdraft of £1,200 was obtained to enable the purchase. This property was then sold in 1909 and a new section purchased west of the previous site.

In 1910 several hundred people gathered in front of the building being erected for the laying of the foundation stone by the Mayor, Mr Ott. This site still stands today as the flagship site for the Y’s activities in Invercargill.

1914 to 1918 – First World War. The YMCA became an indispensable feature of military camp life providing recreation, facilities for reading and writing, entertaining troops and fundraising to assist wounded men and soldiers home and abroad in numerous ways.

Early in the 1920s the Association went into decline and patronage fell away. In 1926 the Invercargill YMCA went into recess and in February 1929 the Invercargill YMCA was officially closed.

Mid to late 1900s

In 1938 the National Office of the YMCA requested the Invercargill Rotary Club to investigate the possibility of reviving the Association. A public meeting was held on 10 May of the same year to discuss the revival of the YMCA and those citizens “interested in the welfare of youth”. A resolution to revive the YMCA in Invercargill was unanimously carried, trustees were appointed, and committees were established.

In 1940, a range of programmes and activities commenced including gymnastics, physical fitness classes, camps, sports, dances and social/service clubs. Over this period, YMCA Invercargill also gave considerable time to assist the Patriotic Council, the War Service Committee, Street Day Appeals and providing accommodation for soldiers.

In 1943, a basketball league was formed which became part of the YMCA activity for many decades. In the 1950s, the league had grown to 50 teams requiring the competition to be run at the Centennial Hall.

In the latter part of 1946, a considerable amount of time was given to the development of the YMCA. An extensive report led to the decision to erect a gymnasium across the rear of the Tay Street properties. The Building Fund held £8,216.

In 1950 Carols by Candlelight was held for the first time with over 3,000 people attending. This event still runs in Invercargill as the oldest running Christmas event in the City. The YMCA dances that were held throughout the year attracted almost 12,000 attendances over a year.

After many years of fundraising, the new stadium on Tay Street was officially opened on 31 October 1959. The Honourable W T Anderton, Minister of Internal Affairs declared the stadium open before a crowd of 800 guests. Approximately £12,000 had been fundraised and paid towards the cost of the building and £10,000 was advanced by the Southland Building Society.

In 1963 the YMCA purchased the Hargraves Building on the east side of the YMCA. This building was used to house a Counselling and Human Relations Centre as well as provide accommodation. This was sold in 1984 as part of a consolidation process to Foodstuffs.

Over the course of the late 1900s membership numbers grew to over 2,400 with four service clubs, 19 different clubs and activities organised by the Association. Total attendance at Saturday night cabarets exceeded 10,000 for the year, 300 young people attended summer camps, 600-700 participated in holiday programmes each term and Mother – Son and Father – Daughter evenings were attended by 600.

In 1975, the YMCA constitution was changed to allow women to qualify to join as Office of Directors of the Board, and in 1986 Mrs Jane McNamara, a chartered accountant ,was appointed as General Manager - YMCA Invercargill’s first woman manager.

In 1985 extensive upgrades to the Tay Street site were undertaken. They included the extension of the stadium and the modernisation of the old gymnasium into the Health and Fitness Centre including the weight training room. Following this year, the YMCA Invercargill introduced the Training Assistance Programme due to nearly 100 people seeking training in a variety of programmes.

In 1993 employment training services were shifted away from the Tay Street building through the purchase of the Railway Station building on Leven Street. It was expected that this move would relieve congestion in the Tay Street building and provide opportunity for expansion across the board.

In 1994 after extensive legal advice and consideration, the trustees created two new companies, Southland YMCA Recreation and Southland YMCA Education.

Early 2000s

In 2000 the Southern Cross Scout Hall Trust gifted the building located on Teviot Street reserve to the YMCA Invercargill. This building continues to be used for the purposes of education and recreation for young people and the wider community. The Y also continues to work with Invercargill City Council and local partners to look after the reserve and ensure it meets the needs of local residents and user groups.

In 2001 the Southland Children’s Health Camp gifted its Omaui campsite situated on over 3 hectares with a building complex located on the Omaui headlands. The purpose of the complex remains for the good of the people of Southland, especially its young people. Since then upgrades have been undertaken on the site including building covered areas, developing outdoor activities and tracks as well as significant upgrades to the building itself to ensure it is fit for purpose for user groups.