Tell us a bit about the Whatcom Y’s history.

The Whatcom Family YMCA came into existence in 1890. Its focus was the improvement of spiritual, mental, social and physical conditions of men. When times got tough in 1898, the Board of Directors closed the doors. There was renewed interest in 1903, and the organization was reestablished at 311 East Holly Street. It featured swimming, a gym, dormitories, and social rooms. As that building aged and deteriorated, the Y took over the building where it currently resides, formerly the Hotel Henry, at 1256 North State Street.

In the 1950s, the Y broadened its mission to include family activities. The Family Swim program began in 1953, and girls were first invited to participate through the Learn-to-Swim program in 1955. Females of any age became eligible for full membership in September 1958.

You recently switched over to LED lights. What’s this about?

We have a long, rich past, and we know how important it is to plan for the future. We swapped out all of our old, inefficient fluorescent lighting with new LED fixtures. The project was completed in September 2015.

What impact will community members see?

667 fixtures were changed out; we’re at 100 percent LED now. Our electricity usage will reduce by 68 percent; the equivalent annual average usage of 35 American homes. We’re better serving Bellingham, and our planet!

What do people not know about the YMCA that they should?

We’re a cause-driven nonprofit agency, meaning absolutely no one is turned away for their inability to pay.

Also, basketball, volleyball, and raquetball were all invented by the Y. The original game of basketball was played with a soccer ball and two peach baskets. The baskets still had their bottoms and the ball had to be manually retrieved.

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