Our History

Our History

From a church to a YMCA and finally a Boys & Girls Club!

The original site of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Cedar Rapids has a ton of history! From 1910 to 1954, this was the site of St James Methodist Episcopal Church. In 1954 the church sold the land to the YMCA who converted the building into the Ellis Community Center. Between 1958 and 1980, the YMCA added a teen center, a gym, a pool, locker rooms, and weight rooms. In August, 1990 the YMCA announced it would be closing the Ellis Branch. The Ellis Community Center was near and dear to many who had used this building and made so many memories there, so in December, 1991 the Friends of the Ellis Community Center reopened the Ellis Community Center.  Finally, on November 16, 1993, a Boys & Girls Club came to Cedar Rapids when the Ellis Community Center chartered with the Boys & Girls Club of America.
When first opening its doors as the Ellis Community Center Boys & Girls Club, the organization held recreational sports leagues, gave the community access to the pool and weight rooms. In 1997 the pool was closed and the Club's sole focus changed to serving underprivileged youth in the Ellis neighborhood. It was then that the Club officially became the Boys & Girls Club of Cedar Rapids. At that time the Club served on average 45 youth each day. 
In 2004 the Boys & Girls Club of Cedar Rapids partnered with First Congregational Church on 17th Street SE to open the South Unit and serve youth on the east side of Cedar Rapids. The Club officially changed its name to Boys & Girls Clubs of Cedar Rapids.
In 2008, like so many homes and businesses in Downtown Cedar Rapids, the original site of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Cedar Rapids was destroyed by a major flood. So many of our families were displaced during this time and then for our Club members to have their second home destroyed as well, turned their entire worlds into chaos. Many Club members helped clean up the Club, their home away from home, in hopes of putting it back together again and gaining some sense of normalcy. Unfortunately all was lost and the building was eventually taken down in 2012. 
It was at this time that the Club changed its philosophy from "How do we get the kids to the Club?" to "How do we get the Club to the kids?" This new philosophy brought us to Echo Hill Church in Mound View Neighborhood, the Salvation Army and Taylor Elementary School. With the addition of these three sites we now had sites in all four quadrants of Cedar Rapids. Echo Hill closed in 2013 and reopened down the street at the Cedar Rapids School District's Polk Alternative Education Center.
In 2011, thanks to the generosity of Mercy Medical Center, the Boys & Girls Clubs' Administrative Office found a home at the Sister Mary Lawrence Center located at 6th Street and 4th Avenue SE. In 2012 we opened a fifth Club at Olivet Presbyterian Church. In 2013 we closed The Salvation Army Unit and reopened at Hoover Elementary School. 
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