History of the Elyria YWCA

The Elyria YWCA was incorporated on February 13, 1913. After incorporation, Mrs. A. M. Hannaford was named chairwoman of the campaign to raise $25,000 to purchase property and begin the work of the YWCA. The $25,000 was raised in five days and the YWCA was able to purchase the W. E. Miller residence at 318 West Avenue. The W. E. Miller residence included a carriage house, referred to as the “Old Barn” which became the YWCA’s activity building. There was also a tennis court behind the “Old Barn.” Early classes offered by the YWCA included sewing classes, millinery classes, Bible study, craft, cooking, English and typing classes. Physical fitness was also a concern of early YWCAs so gym classes and basketball and tennis teams were formed at the YWCA.

In the 1930’s the YWCA was a very vibrant and progressive organization. It was the first organization in Elyria to host interracial events. Women of different races were participating in social events and serving on a board together. This was because of Ona V. Holly, YWCA executive secretary from 1934 to 1948. It was Ms. Holly who also championed the idea of building a new activities facility to replace the “Old Barn”. However it would not be until after World War II and Ona Holly’s death that ground would be broken on the new building in March 1952. The original Carriage House was torn down and in September of 1953 the new activity center, Holly Hall - named for Ona V. Holly - was dedicated. The YWCA moved their offices from the Miller home to Holly Hall and the home became one of three residences that still provide transitional housing for women today.

The YWCA has grown and changed with the world and has continued to provide programs for women and has adapted to provide what women need today. Today, the Women’s Campus Project provides transitional housing in several homes owned by the YWCA. The Youth Services Program addresses the needs and interests of the youth in our community and the Community Anti-Hate Taskforce promotes tolerance and understanding between diverse communities within Lorain County.

In 2002 the Elyria YWCA entered into a strategic partnership with the Lorain YWCA to offer joint programming for women in the area of racial justice and women’s economic empowerment. The Community Anti-hate Taskforce and the Hate Free Lorain County Conference were the inaugural programs offered through the strategic partnership. Another venture, the YWCA Women’s Center of Lorain opened in October 2007.