With the Armed Services YMCA Trunk or Treat coming up this weekend, I thought it would be great to know who the ASYMCA is and what the organization is all about.
The ASYMCA began in the 1860s, when YMCA volunteers helped out Union Soldiers during the Civil War.
In April of 1861, the YMCA volunteers began a bigger push to help Soldiers in whatever capacity they needed. Later in 1861, 15 YMCA groups came together to discuss efforts to help the sick and wounded.
They created an organization known as the United States Christian Commission, and their purpose was to provide physical and spiritual comfort to Soldiers. Abraham Lincoln gave the group his blessing.
In 1889, the first permanent Army YMCA was built at Fort Monroe, Virginia. In 1902, Congress gave the YMCA permission to build on other installations.
By 1914, 31 Army and Navy YMCAs were operating across the country.
During World War I, the YMCA launched a morale and welfare service program for the military. Ninty percent of the armed forces in Europe had access to YMCA volunteers and services.
The YMCA continued to grow, and during World War II they joined forces with the Jewish Welfare Board, Salvation Army, National Travelers Aid Association and others to create the United Services Organizations.
The USO provided morale for the Soldiers, but was deactivated in 1947. The YMCA filled the role they left behind. The branch of the YMCA dedicated to helping Soldiers was renamed as the YMCA Armed Services Department. By 1948, they had taken responsibility for 26 former USO branches.
Through the 1950s to the 1980s, the YMCA took control of more USOs around the globe. In 1983, the Department of Defense recognized that the YMCA’s Family Resource Center had done so much to help Soldiers and their Families that they made them a permanent part of the DoD.
The YMCA Armed Services Department’s name changed to the Armed Services YMCA, and continues to operate programs for Soldiers and Families.
According to the website, “programs, services and events we (ASYMCA) provide are designed to help the Family come together, stay together and have the ability to adjust, bounce back and thrive wherever the services send them.”
Here at Fort Bragg, the ASYMCA provides services throughout the year, and also offers programs. One of their programs, Operation Hero, is designed to help military kids face the unique challenges they encounter.
With team-building exercises and a mentor program, Operation Hero helps kids from second to eighth grades.
Their Operation Kid Comfort program provides children of deployed Soldiers with a quilt or a pillow with pictures of their deployed loved one. All of the quilts and pillows are created by a team of volunteers.
For more information about what the ASYMCA at Fort Bragg does for Soldiers and Families, visit their website at www.asymca.org/what-we-do-fort-bragg.
Don’t forget to also check out their Trunk or Treat, Saturday, from 2 to 4 p.m. at Smith Lake. The event is open to military Families, and all trick or treaters must be in costume.
For more information about the Trunk or Treat, visit www.facebook.com/ASYMCAFortBraggNC.