Our History

Our History | The Gateway Family YMCA

We are proud of the lives we’ve touched!

We are proud of the difference we’ve been able to make in Eastern Union County and Northern Middlesex County .

The Gateway Family YMCA was founded on January 11, 1900, by Edgar B. Moore and a small group of community leaders who wanted to provide wholesome housing and activities for the young men who left their families behind and immigrated into the city during the growth of industry at the turn of the twentieth century. Since that day, the YMCA has been one of the leading health and human service organizations in Eastern Union County and Northern Middlesex County. Beginning with twelve rented rooms above Parson’s Drug Store at 92 Broad Street in Elizabeth, as the population grew in Eastern Union County, so did the YMCA. We now deliver programs and services through six branches and more than 30 program sites.

Historical Highlights

Melynda A. Disla  is named the President and Chief Executive Officer for The Gateway Family YMCA on November 1, 2022.

The Gateway Family YMCA was named as a top NJ non-profit organization in the NJBIZ Business of the Year 2022 category for Non-Profit Business of the Year (101+ Employees).  The Business of the Year awards recognize the state’s most dynamic businesses and business leaders for outstanding accomplishments in helping the state’s business community grow and prosper.

The Gateway Family YMCA introduces a Community Membership ensuring that everyone belongs at the YMCA

The Gateway Family YMCA was chosen by the YMCA of the USA to participate in a Business Innovation Implementation cohort for Fitness Facility Memberships.


The Gateway Family YMCA expanded it’s commitment to Digital Innovation and Health Equity, by including additional Live Virtual Group Exercise and Chronic Disease Management Programs, YMCA360 – 24 hour access to Live and Recorded YMCA programs from over 100 YMCA’s across the country.

The Gateway Family YMCA and Shaping Elizabeth were highlighted in the 2021 Theory of Community Strengthening by the YMCA of the USA.

The Gateway Family YMCA was selected to participate in a YUSA pilot for Digital Innovation with Sprout Social.

The Gateway Family YMCA celebrated 120 Years of Strengthening Community with a 120 Story Project.

The Gateway Family YMCA continued to serve the community throughout the Global Coronavirus Pandemic, including essential services such as:

  1. Residential Housing Programs
  2. Child Care for Essential Workers
  3. Virtual Learning Programs for Child Care while School was Remote
  4. Virtual Group Exercise Programs
  5. Virtual Chronic Disease Management Programs
  6. Virtual Social Opportunities

Through a strong commitment to all, The Gateway Family YMCA introduced Live Virtual Chronic Disease Management and Group Exercise programs, a Virtual Membership, and 24-Hour Virtual Y On Demand.


The Youth Development Branch in Elizabeth, NJ becomes the 6th branch of The Gateway Family YMCA in March 2019.

The Dudley House Veterans Transitional Housing Program opens in Plainfield, NJ with a Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony on July 11, 2019.

The Gateway Family YMCA hosts 119th Annual Meeting in June 2019.

The Gateway Family YMCA and Shaping Elizabeth were selected by the YMCA of the USA to participate in a study on the Theory of Community Strengthening.

In collaboration with the County of Union, The Gateway Family YMCA begins providing a 24-Hour Homeless Emergency Response Hotline for those in need of emergency housing and vital services. This hotline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to assist Union County individuals and families seeking emergency shelter and other vital services at 908-249-4815.

The WISE Center Adult Social Day Services Program celebrates 35 years of serving the local community.

The Gateway Family YMCA was selected by the YMCA of the USA to be the Y Experience Regional Champion for local Y’s.

The WISE Center YMCA Branch in Union, NJ becomes the 5th branch of The Gateway Family YMCA.

The Gateway Family YMCA was one of only 29 YMCA’s selected to participate in the Y Member Experience Learning Cohort.

The Rahway Branch celebrates a Grand Opening on June 8, 2015 upon the completion of the 16,938 square foot renovation project.

The YMCA of Eastern Union County changes the name to The Gateway Family YMCA to better recognize the communities we serve.

On June 11, 2013 the Elizabeth Branch celebrates a Grand Re-Opening ceremony upon completion of renovations.

The Elizabeth Branch begins the much-awaited renovations with a phased project to be complete in late 2012. The health and wellness center is scheduled to be available in spring 2012.

The Wellness Center Branch opens its doors as a second facility in Union Township. With a focus on healthy living for this facility, it will provide opportunities to the community as they engage learn and thrive in their wellness journey.

The Gateway Family YMCA is identified to participate in the YMCA of the USA Diabetes Prevention Program that assists individuals TAKE CONTROL of their pursuit to wellness.

The Five Points Branch acquired the WISE Center from St. Barnabas. The WISE Center services adults with dementia and support for their caregivers.

Based on our work with Activate America our Association was selected to join the YMCA Gulick Collaborative. Supports our continued commitment to supporting Health Seekers and building relationships.

Received Member to Member Award presented by the Greater Union Chamber for the services provided by our Elizabeth Branch and the President’s Award by the Union County Chamber of Commerce for the work of our Five Points Branch.

Dedicated newly renovated 124 Madison Avenue house providing temporary housing for single women and their families in a warm, safe environment with support for healthy living.

Krystal R. Canady is named the Chief Executive Officer for the YMCA of Eastern Union County.

YMCA’s Rahway Branch awarded Pioneering Healthier Communities Grant by Y-USA to pilot a national program in partnership with the Federal Center for Disease Control to address the obesity crisis and create sustainable, positive community change around healthy living.

The Josephine and John Jacobson YMCA child care center is opened at 16 Jefferson Avenue in Elizabeth. Named in honor of our board member, the center serves 104 children including 36 toddlers.

Renovation is completed on The George and Madeline Burry houses at 110 and114 Madison Avenue in Elizabeth opening 16 units of transitional housing for homeless women and children.

Grand Re-Opening of the Rahway Branch celebrates renovations and continued support of the community.

50-year lease signed with the Rahway Redevelopment Agency for property adjacent to Rahway branch building. Combined with 5 lots purchased by the YMCA in 2000 – 2002, the Y constructs onsite parking, outdoor pavilion and playfield for summer day camp and youth sports activities. Membership grows to 13,691.

Sierra Gardens apartment building opens at 144 Madison Avenue in Elizabeth. The building was constructed using low-income housing tax credits. The Association Offices are moved from the Elizabeth Branch building to the new quarters in Sierra Gardens in August 2004.

Major construction to Five Points main building adds indoor swimming pool, two childcare classrooms and doubles the size of the health wellness center. Y membership grows to 9,521.

YMCA celebrates its 100th anniversary and launches $25 million Capital Campaign: Building for our Second Century of Service. Board member, Calvin Sierra, President of Imperial Weld Ring, chairs the campaign. Over the next six years, the campaign has raised $22 million leading to major expansion of housing, health wellness, and childcare programs.

Herb’s House childcare center opens in partnership with the County of Union, located at 33 Rahway Avenue in Elizabeth. Herb’s House is now operated as an Abbott educational program in cooperation with the Elizabeth Board of Education.

After two years of negotiations, the YMCA of Rahway is acquired, becoming the Y’s third branch. Rahway’s 1917 building on Irving Street is modernized over the next two years refurbishing the gymnasium, locker rooms, swimming pool and opening a preschool childcare center and cardiovascular fitness training area.

State of New Jersey awards YMCA contract to privatize Linden Day Care Center formerly run by the Division of Youth and Family Services. The program moved to the Elizabeth building and served 56 abused and neglected children ages 2 to 5 years old.

Lease signed with United Methodist Church in Union for second childcare program center. Called the Childcare Campus, the center has the capacity to serve 45 preschool children.

Completed 10,000 square foot addition to Five Points Branch building. Preschool childcare center expanded from one to five classrooms including space for infants, toddlers and licensed Kindergarten. Nautilus fitness center tripled original size. YMCA membership is now 4,074.

Responding to the need for emergency shelter for homeless families, the YMCA opens Madison House in the Elizabeth Branch building. Constructed in the former swimming pool area, the Madison House was one of the first homeless housing programs to provide private bedrooms and social services to assist families in becoming independent of the social welfare system.

YMCA successfully concludes Capital Campaign: A Time for Growth. Chaired by Thomas D. Sayles, Jr., Chairman of Summit Bank Corporation, the campaign successfully raises $2.5 million to expand program facilities at the YMCA’s two branches, as well as, retire debt.

YMCA signs contract with Township of Union Board of Education to provide school-age childcare in six Township public schools Monday through Friday from 3:00 to 6:00 p.m. The contract continues today and became the prototype for similar school-based programs in Elizabeth, Hillside, Kenilworth, Linden, and Rahway.

Five Points main building renovated, adding the second floor and opening first YMCA Nautilus Center exercise room in the state.

Kathleen A. Dunn is name the General Director/CEO of the YMCA of Eastern Union County.

Preschool childcare is launched at Five Points with four children transported to the Branch for after Kindergarten care. The Jack & Jill Cooperative nursery school is disbanded the following year to pave the way for full day preschool childcare.

Title IV-A government grant is awarded to YMCA to provide after school childcare to 37 low income children in Elizabeth and 25 children in Union.

Five Points Branch main building opens on Tucker Avenue with gymnasium, nursery school room, kitchen and office. The field and woods surrounding the building become home for our summer day camp program and the Whalemobile. Three years later an outdoor swimming pool is constructed and the Whalemobile is retired.

99-year lease signed with Township of Union for three acres of land on Tucker Avenue in Union at a cost of $1 per year.

Property will become site for new Five Points Branch facility. Capital Campaign is launched to raise $500,000 for a Five Points’ building and $450,000 for repairs to the gymnasium and swimming pool and installation of new boiler at Elizabeth.

Five Points Branch was established by Kenilworth, Roselle Park and Union organizing committees and is chartered by the National Council of YMCA’s. Branch begins programs in an enclosed pavilion owned by the Charles Hampp family behind the landmark “hot dog stand” at Five Points’ intersection in Union. The Jack and Jill Cooperative Nursery School, providing preschool education to 3 and 4-year-olds, opens its doors for young families.

Swimmobile, a tractor-trailer – later dubbed the “Whalemobile” – with swimming pool on the back of the trailer, was invented by YMCA Director, Gerry Croushore. The swimmoble was driven from playground to playground in Hillside, Linden and Union where it was parked for one or two weeks while instructors gave swimming lessons. The swimmobile was so popular that a gymobile and nursery school trailer were also added.

Name changed from YMCA of Elizabeth to YMCA of Eastern Union County as recommended by Community Chest, to recognize the Y’s expanded programs in Hillside, Kenilworth, Linden, Roselle, Roselle Park and Union.

Bowling alleys and billiard room are dismantled in Elizabeth building to open Health Center to attract businessmen and professionals to YMCA membership.

Debt of $110,000 retired on Elizabeth building with contributions from Cleveland Dodge, the Rockefeller Family and cooperation of local banks. Membership grows to 3,123.

State organization urges YMCA to move into communities adjacent to Elizabeth. Y begins extension programs in Linden, Hillside and Union.

Y’s General Secretary, Emery Stevens, sought information on starting programs for the 10,000 African Americans living in Eastern Union County. Instead of building separate facilities, as other communities had, the families were invited to join the Madison Avenue facility.

During World War II, the Y spearheaded drives to assist servicemen with emergency living quarters; helped refugees with food, clothing, shelter and medical supplies; promoted the sale of War bonds; ran physical fitness programs to help train pre-draft boys; and changed its schedule to meet the demands of local factories that were supporting the war effort.

Elizabeth Branch main building opens January 1, 1929 just months before the Great Depression. It is three times the size of the Jersey Street building with similar facilities built at a cost of $750,000.

Two lots were purchased on Madison Avenue in Elizabeth for $16,500 and $1 to become the site for the YMCA’s new building. Three hundred men were recruited to raise funds and $192,000 was collected from 2,600 people in one week.

Membership grew to 1,755 as bible study, lectures, youth activities, summer camps and extension programs became more popular.

Hi-Y service clubs for high school boys were started to encourage local youth to perform community service and promote a higher class of Christian character among its members.

Opened first building on Jersey Street in Elizabeth. The building was four stories tall with a gymnasium, bowling alleys, running track, swimming pool, an auditorium that seats 300 people, nine classrooms for adult school, 15 residents’ rooms, offices, meeting rooms and parlors. Built at a cost of $80,000, the new building was considered one of the most modern and best equipped in the state. Membership grew to 706 and the Y became known for athletics — basketball, gymnastics, wrestling, bowling and baseball — and religious services each Sunday evening.

Purchased site on Jersey Street from Dr. Robert Bowen for new building at a cost of $7,500.

First general meeting held at Second Presbyterian Church on East Jersey Street in Elizabeth. The Board of Directors was formed and Nicholas C. J. English, the Union County Prosecutor, was elected our first President.

First General Secretary, John Strawbridge, former General Secretary of the West Philadelphia YMCA, appointed in May.

The Gateway Family YMCA