how it all began....

A Brief History of the Siskiyou Family YMCA

In 1990, Leah McConnell purchased what was the “Old Coca Cola Warehouse” and donated it to the City of Yreka. This 14,945 square foot metal warehouse was donated with the intent of providing recreation programs and activities for the residents of the community.  At the time the City did not have the resources to develop and operate the facility for that purpose.  In 1992, the City appointed a committee to suggest uses of the building.  In 1993, the committee recommended it to be used as a YMCA. As a result, the Yreka City Council encouraged and supported a grass roots effort to work with YMCA of the USA to develop a local association organization to operate the facility according to the wishes of Ms. McConnell.  In response, Leah McConnell gave the YMCA $500,000 to jumpstart the community effort.  $250,000 was designated to develop the facility and $250,000 was to start an endowment for the Siskiyou Family YMCA. In response to this gift, the community mobilized and raised over $400,000 in start up money. The YMCA officially opened its’ doors and has been successfully operating since 1994.

Currently, the Siskiyou Family YMCA fills a huge void in what is an economically disadvantaged area, currently referred to as “frontier” in extreme Northern California.  There are few fitness or recreation opportunities for youth and the YMCA is a focal point for healthy activity.  A large part of our community's recreation programs take place at the YMCA. Those activities include youth and adult sports leagues, camps, arts & enrichment programs, birthday parties and even whitewater rafting! In addition to general recreation programs, the facility is used by the elementary and high schools for team practices, social activities and special events.  The YMCA has become a community gathering place with a majority of community-wide events occurring at the facility throughout the year.  The YMCA has assumed the role of recreation provider and has become an affordable alternative for families to participate in healthy activities.

The Climbing Wall, 2006

In 2006 the Mt. Shasta Ski Park donated a 24 foot tall rock climbing tower to the YMCA.  This gift sparked an opportunity for the YMCA to address increased rates of youth obesity and a growing health crisis that is affecting the youth of Siskiyou County.  In 2008 the YMCA Board of Directors determined to make the YMCA more “Fit Kid Friendly” by enclosing the rock tower for year round activity and to construct and operate a Youth Activity Center at the YMCA Facility. 

The Youth Activity Center, 2009

Although it did not have the project entirely funded, the YMCA started construction on the youth activity center in the fall of 2009 with the promise of volunteer labor from local builders and a “time and materials” contract with a local building contractor. Various foundations and donors continued to support the funding effort along the way in order to complete the project. One private donor, Craig Hill donated $60,000 to fill a financial ‘gap’ in the construction process to continue to push the project forward. Just 4 days after Craig presented the YMCA the donation, he tragically passed away. Craig’s closest friend Tom Deany offered to fill the remaining financial ‘gaps’ by donating $40,000 in his friend’s name with the promise that Craig would be publicly recognized. On February 26th, 2011, the Siskiyou Family YMCA had a grand opening for its most recent addition – ‘The Craig Hill Youth Activity Center’. The facility houses the rock wall donated by Mt. Shasta Ski Park that allows for ‘free climb’ times for both youth and adults throughout the week. It also has a 1500 sq. foot youth fitness area downstairs that is equipped with hi-tech cardio, strength balance and coordination equipment designed to engage kids on a physical and mental level so they have fun and enjoy exercise. Upstairs, there is a 2500 sq. ft. youth programming area that houses the wrestling, jujitsu and gymnastics programs.

Still Growing

The Siskiyou Family YMCA is an independent non-profit organization, and is open to anyone regardless of race, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation or disability.  In 2014, more than 4400 residents of Yreka and surrounding communities participated in positive, safe and healthy YMCA activities.  More than one half of elementary school children participate in YMCA sports, arts, enrichment and fitness activities.  It is important to note that the YMCA does not turn anyone away because of inability to pay program costs or entrance fees.  It is because of widespread support from the community, that we are able to offer financial assistance and scholarships for membership and/or participation in YMCA programs.  In 2014 the YMCA awarded $33,613 in financial assistance to qualifying applicants. The financial assistance need within our community is probably the greatest hurdle our organization has to overcome on a yearly basis. But the generosity of our local donors and with the help of various foundations including SRCF, The Kenneth T. and Eileen L. Norris Foundation & the Ford Family Foundation, we continue to keep our promise of ‘no one will be turned away from inability to pay for a program or membership at the Y!’