For the past 50 years, the Arthur R. Baxter YMCA has been a hub of community involvement on the southside. More than 14,000 members use the facility to strengthen their bodies through weightlifting, swimming and other physical activities. Churches have been founded at the Y, and Meals on Wheels efforts were organized in the building.

The organization has survived lulls in membership and a tornado that nearly destroyed the branch.

The Baxter YMCA opened to the public on Dec. 27, 1965. But the organization’s roots in the southside community stretch back further. As early as 1947, the YMCA moved into an office on the campus of Indiana Central College, now known as the University of Indianapolis. In 1961, the organization moved to an 18-acre tract of land that formerly was a hog farm. Members met in a barn on the property at what was known as the Southside Family YMCA, with a membership of about 1,500.

The Baxter YMCA is named for Arthur R. Baxter, a prominent Indianapolis businessman and philanthropist. Though not an active member in planning the building, he was a supporter of the organization. His foundation’s gift of $250,000 helped pay off a loan, a gift for which he was honored with his name on the facility.

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In the newly constructed facility, people played basketball on new courts, exercised in a wellness center and gathered in club rooms and lounges. The large outdoor pool was one of the first features built; and on summer days, it attracted hundreds of people.

Mary Overstreet, member involvement director, described the Y’s mission this way: “We serve the needs of the community. That’s what we’ve done since we started, and that’s what we’re going to continue doing.”

In addition to the traditional health and fitness programs, the Baxter Y has been a partner in the larger community. Christ United Methodist Church, located less than a mile south of the YMCA, held its services in the building while its own worship center was under construction. The facility has partnered with Johnson County schools to offer after-school programs and mentoring options. More than 1,500 kids take part in the after-school care.

Diabetes prevention is a nationwide YMCA project and has been successful at the Baxter facility. Water classes through the Arthritis Foundation helps people with arthritis improve their movement and ease their pain. Working with the Livestrong Foundation and Franciscan St. Francis Health, the Baxter YMCA provides wellness services for people going through cancer treatment and recovery.

We congratulate the Baxter Y on its first half-century, and we’re confident that it will continue as a community asset for the next 50 years.

On the Web

The Baxter YMCA website is

At issue

The Baxter YMCA was founded 50 years ago.

Our point

In its first half-century the southside Y has grown to become a solid and valuable community asset.