The Young Men’s Christian Association, more commonly known as the YMCA, began as a community prayer group in Switzerland in 1844. As the organization grew and joined with a sister network, the YWCA, it became increasingly secular. By the twentieth century, the YMCA was working primarily in urban communities, offering Christian entertainment to deter youth from engaging in crime. YMCA members also mentored young participants by offering training in skills that would serve them in the labor force.
During World War I, the YMCA played an active role both at home in the United States and abroad. On the home front, the organization launched clean-up campaigns on the streets and offered courses in emergency action and food conservation during Herbert Hoover’s initiative to decrease food consumption and waste.