In 1967, Chan Copps, an officer of the Copps Corporation, and attorney Gerry O’Brien, began working with a group of friends to establish a YMCA in Stevens Point. O’Brien characterizes this early group as “a bunch of young guys who were looking for a place for recreation.”
Although the city allowed the group to use the rec center one night each week to play basketball, they were looking for more frequent opportunities to get together. When a couple of officers from the Milwaukee YMCA office were passing through Stevens Point, O’Brien and Copps saw this as an opportunity to gather more information on how they might bring a YMCA to Stevens Point.
The officers needed some convincing. In fact, one of the officers warned O’Brien that they “couldn’t just drop one in from an airplane.” They’d have to establish an organization and gather support.
In order to convince the national Y organization that the community had a need for a YMCA and that the city would support it, Copps and O’Brien began organizing the first board of directors and spent a year visiting every organization in town—PTAs, schools, banks, and businesses—with flyers and brochures informing the community of the Y’s mission. A memo to the national organization from 1967 states, “I am happy to report to you that … Gerry O’Brien and myself [Chan Copps] have spoken about the ‘Y’ project to over 1,200 people. The response has been outstanding.”
The Y officially opened in the old firehouse, but their membership base grew rapidly. By 1970, the board of directors knew they needed more space to expand their services and programming.