Providing Safe Spaces for Wilmington Youth

Programs are designed to keep children and teens away from violence and risky behaviors.

Wilmington, Delaware – With recent reports of increased violence in the City of Wilmington over the last year, the YMCA of Delaware is on a mission to keep local youth safe and engaged. According to Delawareonline, there have been 175 shootings and 34 deaths in Wilmington so far this year. Nearly half the state’s shootings have occurred in Wilmington, and in Delaware, 51% of the victims were under the age of 18 at the time of the shooting.

In an effort to protect our youth, the Walnut Street and Central YMCAs in Downtown Wilmington have implemented programs and services that support the city’s anti-violence initiatives.

The Walnut Street YMCA opens its doors to local teens ages 12-18 for free every weekend. There, they are provided with free meals and a safe, welcoming space where they can enjoy playing basketball, swimming, hanging out with friends in the Teen Center, and more. Teens have an opportunity to interact and build relationships with role models, staff, local law enforcement, and community leaders. Additionally, all Y’s across the state offer free memberships for teens ages 12-17 each summer and free memberships for 7th graders year-round.

“The teens that come to the Walnut Y are there to escape the harsh realities of the community in which they live. Many have been victims of gun violence, poverty and/or homelessness. They lack basic social and emotional resources and are just looking for a safe place where they can relax and not worry about being the next victim of violence in their community,” said Anesha Truesdale, Walnut Street YMCA Youth Operations Director. “At the Y, we are able to give them a safe haven, free of worry, while providing them with positive influences and opportunities for future success. The staff and police officers here have become like family, often playing basketball and having important conversations with our teenagers- all efforts aimed to keep kids away from violence and risky behaviors.”

Additionally, the Walnut Street and Central YMCAs provide the community with access to other programs like Workforce Development, Black Achievers, Youth in Government, Drill Team, Summer Camp, open swim time for teens and families, and more. Many local teens are hired to work at the YMCA and all programs are designed to promote positive experiences and strong foundations for local youth.

Each year, the Downtown Y’s serve more than 700 local youth. In 2020, they distributed 80,000 free meals to the community, built more than 230 future leaders through teen programs and gave more than 200 children access to summer camp.

“The Y is committed to being a valuable resource for the Wilmington community,” said Deborah Bagatta-Bowles, Chief Executive Officer of the YMCA of Delaware. “Last year was a challenging one for all of us, especially our young people. At the Y, we want to do everything we can to ensure our youth are not falling victim to negative influences and violence. We want to be sure they have a safe space to just be themselves.”

The Walnut Street YMCA Teen Center Hours are Friday from 6 – 9 pm, Saturday from 12 – 9 pm, and Sunday, from 12-4 pm. Visiting teens must be enrolled in school to drop in. For more information, call (302) 472-9622.

Financial assistance is available to ensure everyone has access to Y programs.


Our Mission


To empower youth, foster healthy living, and promote strong communities.

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