Giving Back: YMCA of Memphis and the Mid-South

Giving Back: YMCA of Memphis and the Mid-South

Gym and swim – it’s a logical and accurate assessment of what YMCA of Memphis and the Mid-South offers the community. But it’s also so much more than an organization of workout facilities and swimming pools. Yes, members often use the Y for its treadmills, weight machines, yoga classes and much more on the fitness front. And yes, its swimming pools offer individuals an opportunity to both cool off in the summer and get in a workout. Beyond the fitness, though, YMCA of Memphis and the Mid-South has 49 after-school childcare locations and 25 summer camp sites across the area. That programming serves as important opportunities to assist and develop children and to help them catch up to appropriate reading levels. And the local organization prides itself on swim lessons and safety around water instruction, as well.


Along with those important services, YMCA of Memphis and the Mid-South began working around food insecurity last year. The U.S. Department of Agriculture food subsidy program provides funding for YMCA to then distribute the meals via a vendor. Last year saw 400,000 meals distributed. The organization is working toward 1 million meals across the Mid-South this year. It’s grown to become the largest YMCA food program in Tennessee.


“We know hungry kids can’t learn well and this is a piece of the other things we’re doing with children,” said Jerry Martin, president and CEO of YMCA of Memphis and the Mid-South. “People do think of us as gym and swim, but feeding kids is something people don’t think of as a space we’re in. After-school programs, safety around water and feeding kids are three ways we can impact an individual child. It’s not everything they need, but it’s all important.”


Located from Oxford, Mississippi, to Trenton, Tennessee, and neighborhoods across Memphis and Shelby County, YMCA of Memphis and the Mid-South has had a long history in the region. The organization started in London in 1844 and came to Boston in 1851. Four years later, it was in Memphis. The organization has a lofty goal of having facilities within 15 minutes of everyone in the Mid-South. It’s not quite there, but it’s trying.


Each of those facilities, while containing similar amenities, are all unique in their own way. “When we say you’ve seen one Y you’ve seen one Y,” Martin said. “Every Y is a little different.” Sixty percent of the organization’s revenue comes from membership, 30 percent from childcare and 10 percent from United Way and other funders. That membership funding allows the organization to provide the important community services. But not all members pay full price. In fact, 40 percent of the 52,000 members are on some type of assistance, part of its effort to make sure no one is turned away regardless of ability to pay.


YMCA of Memphis and the Mid-South is focused on two big capital projects: an effort to rebuild its Whitehaven center and one to renovate the Downtown location. A naming opportunity would go a long way in funding the $10 million Whitehaven rebuild.


For more information about youth programming, memberships, volunteer opportunities and special events, visit


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