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The YMCA

This is Roald Tweet on Rock Island.

The Young Men's Christian Association arrived in Rock Island on April 20th, 1884, floating high on a cloud of idealism, representing, it was claimed, the "highest type of ideal Christian manhood." But stuck in cramped, rented quarters, had it not been for a young girl named Anna Stewart.

The new Rock Island Y moved into two small second floor rooms at 1719 Second Avenue. The young men could not worry about such mundane matters as a suitable building when there was real work to do. There were outdoor athletic events to organize, social and educational programs to plan. And above all, there were the Workers' Bible Training Classes around which the life of the YMCA was centered.

It was at one of these Bible classes in Reynolds, Illinois, on January 30th, 1887, that the young men met little Anna Stewart. At the conclusion of the program, Miss Stewart stepped forward and made the YMCA a gift of fifty cents to erect a home for young men in Rock Island.

Anna Stewart's innocent vision inspired a like vision in the members of the Y, who used her money to start a building fund. Her story was repeated over and over at other Bible studies. New members joined the association, and the fund grew. By September of 1887 there was $1,200 in the fund.

A year later, the YMCA bought a $4,000 lot and hired an architect, who drew up plans for the most complete Y building in Illinois. The cornerstone was laid on June 26th, 1890. By the time the new Y was dedicated on January 1st, 1894, Anna Stewart's fifty cents had grown to $41,841 from 825 subscribers.

As it turned out, the young men of the YMCA were not only high minded, they were fast learners. Looking back at all that one small girl had done for them, they decided to let women finish the job. They formed a Ladies Auxiliary whose job was to raise the money and choose the furnishings. The ladies enlisted the help of the Women's Christian Temperance Union, the King's Daughters, and other women's groups, and the furnishings soon followed.

The young men may have had their ideals, but it took women to make them real.

Rock Island Lines with Roald Tweet is underwritten by Augustana College, Rock Island, Illinois.