Our Rich History
The YWCA of Cortland was organized in 1914 by a group of young business and professional women who met for Bible classes, sewing, basketry, and cooking.
The first Board of Directors was elected in 1915 and in 1918 the Cortland YW became affiliated with the National YWCA.
Activities were carried out in a succession of locations. They included the Grace Episcopal Church, what is now the Corner Store at the intersection of Central Avenue and Church Street, upstairs rooms of the former Burgess Clothing Company on Main Street, the 20th Century Club building and the old normal school in Court House Park. After the Normal School burned, the YMCA permitted us to use their gym and pool during the week.
On November 29, 1919, the YWCA acquired a permanent home, the William P. Randall house, at a cost of $9,000. A cafeteria was added about this time. The Girl Reserve Clubs were organized in 1923, meeting in the barn that had been remodeled to serve as a recreation hall.
A capital fund drive in 1929 raised over $100,000, allowing the addition of a gymnasium, swimming pool and club room. In the 1960’s, a fund drive to raise $95,000 was successful allowing the YWCA to construct an auditorium with a stage over the gym, add a craft room, install air conditioning, revamp the heating system, replace the pool ceiling and floor and improve the ventilation system in the pool. Over the years there have been many internal renovations to meet changing program needs. The purchase of additional parking space and the playground area was made in 1981.
The Current Environment:
As a service agency, the YWCA offers a climate where women and family members of all ages may find a place to enrich their lives through experience in the fields of health, recreation, personal and social relationships, knowledge and skills, vocational aids, leadership training, public affairs, community services, and international relationships.
Two characteristics of the early YWCA have remained hallmarks of the organization: widespread involvement through volunteer and committee structures, and a deep abiding concern for women throughout the world. The YWCA is organized in at least 101 other countries. Each YWCA is autonomous, but all share knowledge and aid through the YWCA world fellowship.
The YWCA of Cortland is a multi-service organization attuned to individual, family, and community needs. Its four programs are: Aid to Victims of Violence, Early Childhood Educational Programs, Bridges for Kids and Health Promotion Services. With a current budget of just over $2 million, the YWCA of Cortland continues to meet the changing needs of the women and their families throughout Cortland County.