While many local parents are able to stay home with their children during the COVID-19 shut down, first responders and critical care workers were left without schools and daycares during the crisis. …
While many local parents are able to stay home with their children during the COVID-19 shut down, first responders and critical care workers were left without schools and daycares during the crisis.
The YMCA has stepped in to help, opening a special daycare for children of first responders and healthcare workers when the shutdown began a month ago.
“We’re developing this program as we go because we’ve never had to do something like this before,” said VP of Operations, Baldwin County Kim Hillman. “We’re doing it as much like summer camp as we can, but there’s a lot more kids you’re working with during an actual summer camp and a lot more togetherness, so it’s totally different doing this program and keeping the kids social distancing. It’s challenging to engage them and get them to have some fun while keeping them further apart.”
Daycare activities include indoor and outdoor games. While the playground is closed, staff have been improvising by creating obstacle courses that the kids can enjoy one at a time, and “bring your bike to school” days. Along with playtime, the staff are offering educational assistance and homework assistance for the school-age children.
On top of the daycare, the Y has been working with Feeding the Gulf Coast by providing a drive thru pickup service at four local YMCA locations, where families with children can pick up breakfast and lunch for the kids. This ensures children who relied on school for meals are still getting the nutrition they need. More partners are Dickerson Literacy Initiatives, which gave the local Y’s 250 new books to add to the children’s libraries, Ascend, and OWA, which sent 100 bags full of stuffed plastic eggs over Easter.
“That’s all examples of the community coming together to do whatever we can for the children, especially to make sure they’re eating every day,” said Hillman.
The YMCA first responders’ kids daycare provides breakfast, lunch, and snacks for the kids, and charges only $15 a day, nearly half of the normal price. The new social distancing guidelines have reduced the staff, with almost 400 YMCA workers being out of work over five locations. With only a handful of employees each location can hold approximately 30 children.
“It’s worked out, and it’s definitely something that we as a staff are really enjoying,” Hillman said. “Through the pandemic we haven’t had the gym, fitness facility, or pools open, but the Y is a cornerstone for the community and is meant to strengthen the community in any way possible, so we’re enjoying doing what is essential during this time. That’s rewarding to us.”
For more information on everything the Y offers, check out their website at www.ymca.net.