George Williams joined 11 friends in 1844 to organize the first Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) in London for the young men who migrated to the city from rural areas to find jobs. The Y offered Bible study and prayer for young men seeking escape from the hazards of life on the streets. Its openness to members crossed the rigid lines separating English social classes. Years later, retired Boston sea captain Thomas Valentine Sullivan noticed a similar need to create a safe "home away from home" for sailors and merchants, so he led the formation of the first U.S. YMCA at the Old South Church in Boston on Dec. 29, 1851. The YMCA offered safe and affordable lodging, gyms, auditoriums, hotel-like rooms, and at some locations, ESL classes and vocational training. http://www.ymca.net/history/1870-1890s.html
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