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YMCA State, Area, Region, and Field Office (SARFO) records

Identifier: Y.USA.44


The State, Area, Region, Field Office (SARFO) collection contains the records of YMCA’s regional supervisory agencies. The records range in date from 1851 to 1994, although the bulk of the material dates from the 1960s through the 1980s. The collection is organized by eighteen different geographic regions, which overlap in coverage and were active during periods of time.

The SARFO collection is similar in scope to the State Committees collection, which generally contains older documents and is organized by state rather than region. State committees played a larger role in YMCA administration before the establishment of area councils during the 1930s through the 1950s. Both collections contain scattered documents relating to individual associations.

The collection is comprised of a variety of documents, especially minutes and reports from Area Council meetings, Area Executive Committee reports, staff meeting reports, and program reports. Other common documents include training materials on physical education, secretarial leadership, and finances. Newsletters, periodicals, photographs, financial records, correspondence, surveys, constitutions/bylaws, and staff rosters can be found within the collection as well.

Most material within the collection describes the administration of YMCA area councils. Other themes covered within the collection include material on industrial work, interracial work, boys’ work, religion, camping, physical education, and adult education. Most of these program areas are addressed from a regional perspective in terms of YMCA administration.


  • 1851 - 2022
  • Majority of material found within ( 1960s-1980s)


Language of Materials


Use of Materials:

This collection is protected by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code). It is the user's responsibility to verify copyright, ownership, and to obtain all the necessary permissions prior to the reproduction, publication, or other use of any portion of these materials.


The idea of establishing regional divisions among YMCA supervisory agencies dates back to 1879, when Robert Weidensall proposed a plan to appoint district secretaries to oversee five-state regions. Such plans were opposed by some within the YMCA, such as Walter C. Douglass, who vetoed a similar plan to create a New England regional federation due to his belief that state organizations were needed to carry on close supervision of associations.

By 1896, however, the International Committee had divided the continent into several regions, stationing as many secretaries in each region as resources could support. This led the way for the acceptance of regional organizations. At the Convention of 1913, a plan was approved that placed regional executives in five districts - Eastern, Southern, Central, Western, and Pacific Coast. In the hopes of lessening national-state tensions within YMCA administration, the executives were directed to work closely with the state committees. After six successful years of operation, the “districts” were renamed “regions” and began to gain a higher status under the National Council.

During the latter half of the 1920s, under the direction of National Council Associate General Secretary S. Wirt Wiley, regional executives played a successful role in the expansion of the YMCA movement in most regions. The Eastern region, however, suffered from a lack of cooperation with state committees – a problem that would grow until the Great Depression allowed for modifications within the system. Wiley concluded in 1929 that the dual structure of the YMCA had become, “unworkable.”

In 1930, Cecil Gamble of Cincinnati was charged with developing a new plan to make the YMCA’s general agencies more efficient and economical. The successful experience of Earl W. Brandenburg, executive of the Central region, led the way for a plan to increase national-state unity. In addition to his role as a regional executive, Brandenburg had also accepted the state secretaryship of Minnesota, producing great results. Subsequently, Cecil Gamble made a recommendation in 1933 that created new “areas” and committees that would function in both field and national relationships. The executives of these new areas would be national staff members who were closely coordinated to allow for diversified services.

Although the plan faced vocal opposition from supporters of states’ rights, the North Central Area Council was organized in 1935, joining together the State Associations of Minnesota, the Dakotas, Wisconsin, and Iowa. The Ohio area followed, along with the West Central, Southwest, Pacific Northwest, and the Pacific Southwest. By the end of 1940, the Central Atlantic Area had been established as well. However, eight states continued to remain independent from the new areas for states’ rights reasons.

During the late 1940s, area organizations developed closer ties to the National Council, while previously independent state committees joined the growing network of area councils. In addition, efforts were made to integrate student work into the area structures in 1949, causing protests among students in the Pacific Southwest Area who were initially suspicious but soon agreed to the changes. Student work was one of four national services to be more closely integrated into the area structures as part of a management consultation made by the YMCA in 1949. These services included financial services, armed services, and field services.

The regional administration of the YMCA continued to develop over the years, adding and altering areas according to the needs of the National Council. During the late 1960s and 1970s, several new areas were added, including the Great Lakes Area and the Tri-State Area. By 1980, the YMCA was composed of eight areas – Northeast, Ohio/West Virginia, Great Lakes, Mid-America, Midwest, Southeast, Southwest, and Pacific. By the end of the century, at least eighteen different area councils had operated within the YMCA at one time or another.

Historical information adapted from the collection, as well as fromHistory of the YMCA In North America(New York: Association Press, 1951) by C. Howard Hopkins.


77 Cubic Feet (77 boxes)


Minutes and reports from Area Council meetings, Area Executive Committee reports, staff meeting reports, program reports and other records of YMCA’s regional supervisory agencies, organized by eighteen different geographic regions, which overlap in coverage and were active during periods of time.


These documents are organized into the following sections:

  1. New England
  2. Pennsylvania and Central Atlantic
  3. Mid-Atlantic
  4. Tri-State
  5. Northeast
  6. Ohio / West Virginia
  7. Great Lakes
  8. Mid-America
  9. Midwest
  10. North Central
  11. West Central
  12. Southern
  13. Southeast
  14. Southwest
  15. Pacific Southwest
  16. Pacific Northwest
  17. Pacific
  18. Miscellaneous Regions

Physical Location

See Detailed Description section for box listing.


See also YMCA State Committee Records (Y.USA.30), separately cataloged in the Kautz Family YMCA Archives.

Processing Information:

Processed as part of Fast Processing Project I, 2008. Material has been minimally processed. Folder descriptions may be general and material has been only loosely grouped into series.

Accession number Y20220427 added February 2023.

Catalog Record ID number: 9973358302301701

YMCA State / Area / Region / Field Offices (SARFO):
An Inventory of Its Records
Finding aid prepared by Lara Friedman-Shedlov and Cody Haro.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Collecting Area Details

Contact The Kautz Family YMCA Archives Collecting Area