Black History Month is an annual celebration of achievements and time to recognize the central role of Blacks and African Americans in U.S. history and culture. The history of the YMCA – like the history of the United States – is a story of incremental progress toward greater inclusion and equity for all. As we celebrate Black History Month, we remember and honor Black leaders and communities who helped move the Y – and the United States – forward on this journey, often in the face of unimaginable challenges.
The Patterson Avenue YMCA opened in 1924 in a house on Depot Street to serve Winston-Salem’s Black and African American community. Youth at the Y participated in basketball leagues, Friday night dances, swam and could attend Camp Civitan, a camp created for people of color. Community member and mentor Moses “Mo” Lucas began his career at the Patterson Y where he led various programs and founded the Youth Incentive Program. Additionally, he created the popular drumline the Mo Lucas Boss Drummers and majorette dance troupe, the Yettes. The Patterson Avenue YMCA laid the foundation for the Winston Lake Family YMCA.
Desiring to better serve the community, board members, donors, volunteers, churches and staff prepared to move to a location in east Winston. On June 1, 1985, the Winston Lake Family YMCA opened its doors. The new facility was a point of pride, providing a new gym, olympic pool, racquetball courts, child care center and more. While the move increased membership and child care, it also greatly expanded its offerings for active older adults. In 1987 Y Achievers, a program assisting students in graduating from high school and preparing them for post-secondary opportunities, was initiated at Winston Lake and continues today.
Today, the Winston Lake Family YMCA continues to serve the community. Y Achievers regularly use the facility for weekend sessions where they discuss topics from college prep and financial literacy to the meaning of culture and its impact on our society. In 2022, Winston Lake piloted Reaching our Potential, a new YMCA of Northwest North Carolina teen referral membership program providing middle and high school students with a healthy and safe space to go after school. Its active older adult population attends for things like card club, SilverSneakers classes, hanging out and drinking coffee, and for camaraderie via the Veterans Fellowship, which includes members representing several branches of the military. Additionally, the Y hosts “the Table,” a table with food available for those needing to fill any gaps in their nutrition.
The future of Winston Lake is bright as it moves into 2023 and beyond. To further the Y’s mission of “helping all people reach their God-given potential in spirit, mind and body,” the Winston Lake Family YMCA will become the Resources for Economic Development, Academics and Community Health (REACH) Center. Focused on meeting the needs of the whole individual, this renovated and redesigned facility will provide classrooms, enhanced wellness spaces, life-skills courses, childcare, on-site medical services and more. Additionally, the facility will put its rich history at the forefront and will become an expanded community gathering place.
The Winston Lake Family YMCA and REACH Center will continue to fulfill various community needs. If you are interested in preserving its past, supporting its present or investing in its future please consider giving to our Annual Impact Fund.