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Records of YMCA international work in Greece

Identifier: Y.USA.9-2-28


Correspondence, minutes, reports, financial documents, development plans, maps, pamphlets, journal and newspaper articles and other records of the YMCA movement in Greece. The main topic of in the collection is the YMCA's civilian work in Greece, primarily in Athens and Thessaloniki (also referred to as Salonica and Saloniki), but war work is also documented. Camps in Salamis, Pelion and Chalkidiki are discussed with prominence as well.

Most of the collection involves information about the programs offered throughout the years in both war work and civilian work. The war work programs involved canteen service, physical and athletic recreation, cinema shows, theatrical exhibitions, circulation libraries, lecture courses, lessons in Greek for illiterate soldiers and religious and moral talks. The civilian work done by the YMCA in Greece involved Sunday school and bible classes, Sunday sermons, a special retreat on Good Friday, collecting and fixing toys for underprivileged children at Christmas, lectures, working boys' discussion groups, housecleaning at camps, night school, lifesaving classes, recreation at the boys' prison, and physical education classes such as volleyball, playground-ball, tennis, football (soccer), quoits (ring-toss), handball, archery, field hockey and swimming.

The collection documents the Greek government's acceptance and assistance in the YMCA's programs, as well as that of the Greek Orthodox Church, specifically the involvement of the Metropolitan Bishops, who became honorary presidents of the Associations for their areas. Other topics include the securing of building and camp sites, and the war work that was done throughout Greece and the surrounding areas. Some mention is made of Metaxas's dictatorship and the dissolving of the YMCA in Greece due to his decree. The Nazi occupation of Greece is mentioned, as well as the damage that both of these occupations did to the YMCA buildings and equipment that still resided in Greece.

The primary correspondents within this collection are Darrell O. Hibbard, Ulius L. Amoss, Herbert P. Lansdale Jr., Lewis W. Reiss, Alexander Michadides, Alexander B. Athanassiades, Seward B. Foote, Richard Stirling, E. O. Jacob, Oliver Jul Frederiksen, Albert M. Chesney, David Creighton, John Custer, Meletios (Metropolitan of Athens) and Metaxekis (Archbishop Metropolitan of Athens). Much of the correspondence discusses financial situations, building projects, the activities and services that the Greek YMCA provided for, or wished to provide for the Greek population.


  • 1903-1988


Language of Materials

English, Greek

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.


In 1892, Luther De Loraine Wishard assisted the YMCA World Service Committee in organizing an association in Athens. This was the first attempt at providing a YMCA to the Greek population, but it was short lived; before 1914 it disappeared. In 1918 upon invitation to the YMCA War Work Council by the Greek government and the Greek Orthodox Church, a war relief service was provided to Greek troops. Two secretaries were sent, H. A. Henderson and Richard Boardman, and they were soon reinforced by 25 North American secretaries. By 1920, 34 huts had been established, the first of these was at Toomba, Salonica (i.e. Thessaloniki, also referred to in the collection as Saloniki ). These huts were established in military posts throughout Greece and then followed the Greek military forces into Russia and Asia Minor. In total, 56 “spitia,” or huts were eventually founded in territories under Greek control. The activities in these spitia included canteen service, physical and athletic recreation, cinema shows, theatrical exhibitions, circulation libraries, lecture courses, lessons in Greek for illiterate soldiers, and religious and moral talks by Orthodox clergy and laymen. The attendance in each averaged 5,000 soldiers daily.

In 1919 requests came to the International Committee from governmental and religious authorities in Athens and Salonica to establish associations for civilians. In 1920 Darrell O. Hibbard arrived in Athens and Ulius L. Amoss was transferred from Thrace to Thessaloniki. In 1921 the Salonica YMCA and in 1923 the Athens YMCA were incorporated under Greek law as Greek institutions. In 1924 Hibbard left because of ill health and in 1925 Amoss was transferred to Athens. Herbert P. Lansdale Jr. came to Thessaloniki as general secretary and in 1926 Lewis W. Reiss arrived and became national physical director. With the blessing of the Metropolitan Bishop of Athens, in 1925 a provisional national committee for Greece was formed; Amoss became national general director. The connection was so close with the Orthodox church that in various archdioceses the YMCA was asked to lead in promoting sunday schools, bible classes, and the study of church history. From 1924 on, Metropolitan Bishops of Greece were successively honorary presidents of both of the associations. The associations had Greek membership, Greek boards of directors and constitutions that were designed according to the Greek law of philanthropic institutions.

In 1927 Reiss reported that the Greek YMCA was encouraging interscholastic sports, teaching fair play and sportsmanship and organizing a Greek branch of the International Lifesaving Corps. The physical education activities that were most popular during this time were volleyball, basketball, playground ball, tennis, football (soccer) and quoits (ring-toss). Throughout the 1920s and early 1930s many fraternal secretaries were assigned to Greece and in Athens in 1930 more than 200 persons actively served in the YMCA.

The Thessaloniki building was a large project for the Greek YMCA. The building was opened in 1933 after construction on it was halted in 1928. Construction of the building was not fully completed for several decades though it was attempted many times throughout the years. There were a few camp locations for the Greek YMCA as well. There was a boys' camp at the island of Salamis, a camp at Pelion and a camp at Phaneromeni. In 1934 the Greek YMCA was focusing its attention on physical education, educational and cultural activities, spirit development and healthy recreational services. Some prominent activities based on these areas of focus were: collecting toys at Christmas for children in need, painting and repairing these toys, YMCA boys' club's leading recreation at the boys' prison, the theatrical club camp Pelion orchestra, handball, archery, field hockey, volleyball, swimming, lifesaving class, vocational lectures, educational department advertisement, night school, use of a boys' reading room, house cleaning at camp Phaneromeni, religious discussions, working boys' discussion group, YMCA members' special retreat on Good Friday and Sunday sermons.

In Greece the deepening of the depression led to the reduction of the North American staff. Albert M. Chesney's departure in 1933 left Lansdale to be the only North American secretary left in Greece. The operating funds, at first largely supplied by the North American foreign committee, continued on a decreasing scale until most funds were raised from sources within Greece. Lansdale took charge of the Thessaloniki YMCA. He left the Athens association on a self-supporting basis with an annual membership and finance campaign of the North American pattern. In 1939 Lansdale went back to North America for family reasons and due to shortage of funds it was decided not to replace him.

In 1939 a decree by the dictator Metaxas officially dissolved the YMCA in Greece. The plants at Athens and Thessaloniki were taken over for the National Youth Organization. The right to reopen and to operate was restored in 1944, and confiscated properties were returned. Active cooperation with the International Committee was also resumed in 1945 with David Creighton as the new North American fraternal secretary in Greece. By 1948 the reorganization of a national council had been completed and membership income was the highest that it had been in the history of the movement in Greece. By 1954 David Creighton was the general secretary on the national council staff, focusing much of his time to leadership training, John A. Custer was appointed technical adviser at Saloniki and Nicholas T. Patinos was also appointed a fraternal secretary in Greece.

In 1955 an Athens building site was gifted by the Greek government and a conditional grant of $80,000 was donated by the International Committee in order to finance the construction of an Athens YMCA building. A nine-story building was constructed. It was dedicated in 1964 and at the time still needed approximately $250,000 worth of finishing and equipping. Also in 1964 David Creighton passed away. Friends of Creighton set up a memorial fund in order to cover the expenses of finishing the Athens building and also to finance other YMCA projects in Greece.

The Greek YMCA continued to grow and develop throughout the years becoming more and more autonomous. The camping programs continued to grow and new camp locations were bought or donated and absorbed into the programs of the Greek YMCA. Hostels and educational activities also continued to be a staple of the services that the Greek YMCA provided. The YMCA centers in Athens and Thessaloniki worked to offer adult education classes, language classes, fine arts classes, spiritual study classes, athletic and recreational programs and the camps at Salamis, Pelion and Chalkidiki also offered many learning opportunities and boys' work options. The Greek Orthodox church was always very involved in the YMCA and continued to be into the 2010s. The Greek YMCA continued a strong relationship with the North American YMCA and continued to introduce programs that would help its community.

The following is a list of individuals who served as YMCA secretaries in Greece along with their dates of service:

Amoss, Ulius Louis (1920-1929) Howe, Warren Francis (1920-1921)
Bakken, James O. (1966-1967) Jacob, Ernest Otto (1928-1931)
Baugher, Richard Allen (1968-1969) Ladwig, Michael W. (1969-1970)
Chesley, Albert Meader (1934-1935) Lamb, Charles Stanley (1922-1923)
Conklin, Richard C. (1967-1968) Lansdale, Herbert P., Jr. (1925-1938)
Creighton, David Coleridge (1945-1964) Lapp, Carol Ann (1973-1974)
Custer, John Alexander (1950-1969) Machotka, Joseph Frank (1925-1927)
Diamantides, Diamandes (1934-1940, 1965-1968) Moulton, Orman William (1945-1949)
Doenecke, Charles C. (1969-1970) Patinos, Nicholas Thomas (1952-1955)
Fisher, Edward Michael (1922-1924) Riess, Lewis William (1924-1934)
Foote, Seward Rowley (1963-1969) Talton, Philip A. (1965-1967)
Frederiksen, Oliver Jul (1930-1933) Wheeler, David B. (1974-1976)
Garver, Charles W. (1973) Wilkinson, P. David (1964-1965)
Hibbard, Darrell Osmer (1920-1925)
Historical information largely adapted and quoted from World Service: A History of the Foreign Work and World Service of the Young Men's Christian Associations of the United States and Canada, (New York: Association Press, 1957) by Kenneth Scott Latourette, from the collection and from "YMCA International, YMCA Greece 2012," (


10.5 Cubic Feet (26 boxes)


Correspondence, minutes, reports, financial documents, development plans, maps, pamphlets, journal and newspaper articles and other records of YMCA international work, both civilian and war-related, in Greece, primarily in Athens and Thessaloniki (also referred to as Salonica and Saloniki), as well as camps in Salamis, Pelion and Chalkidiki .


Biographical information on some of the secretaries involved YMCA work in Greece (see list of individuals in the historical note) is available in the YMCA Biographical Files, separately cataloged in the Kautz Family YMCA Archives.

Processing Information:

Processed as part of Fast Processing Project II, February 2009, as collection FP020. Material has been minimally processed. Folder descriptions may be general and material has not been grouped into series.

Catalog Record ID number: 6397059

An Inventory of Its Records
Finding aid prepared by Lara Friedman-Shedlov and Melanie Doherty.
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Collecting Area Details

Contact The Kautz Family YMCA Archives Collecting Area