CHICAGO -- Over the past five years, membership at YMCAs across the country has increased by 2 million people nationwide and 700,000 in the last year. The YMCA of the USA says that the recently released figures reflect the largest membership in the organization’s 157-year history in the United States.

The report also says that 21 million people—almost half of them children—are currently being served by the nation’s 2,686 Ys.

“We know that our communities are facing critical issues, such as adult and childhood obesity, insufficient family support and lack of affordable child care. YMCA programs address these profound needs, and our growth speaks to the great work YMCAs across the country do every day to improve the lives of kids, families and people in need,” says Neil Nicoll, president and CEO of the YMCA of the USA, in a statement. “While we are pleased with the numbers, we’re even prouder of what they represent: real, positive outcomes in people’s lives. We are honored that so many people look to the YMCA as an essential part of their well-being.”

As the nation’s largest not-for-profit provider of child care, Ys serve more than 500,000 children at nearly 10,000 sites across the country, according to the report. Ys also offer financial assistance to 20 percent of children in its child care programs. More than 1,500 Ys serve communities where the median family income is below the U.S. average. Ys are largely supported by financial assistance, including $1.6 billion in public and private support, along with Y membership fees.