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An Essential Community Crew

YMCA deploys its own crew of caregivers to provide C.R.E.W. in its community.




Most would agree: we are living in unprecedented times. Families are quarantined in their homes and parents who have school-aged kids are often sharing "home office space" with their children, who cannot attend school or daycare. But, what happens if one or both parents have a job that cannot be done from home? Who is taking care of the children of our caregivers and essential services providers?

The Rappahannock Area YMCA in Fredericksburg, VA has devised a service to fill that void. The YMCA C.R.E.W. program, which stands for Childcare Relief for Essential Workers, provides special childcare services for children of first responders, hospital staff, grocery store employees and all essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic—at no cost to parents.

Seeing a challenge. Devising a solution.

In the early days of the pandemic closures, and as hospitals ramped up in anticipation of the need, Mary Washington Hospital put the word out to the Y, knowing they had been running after-school care programs in 34 locations across the region and were equipped to care for elementary-aged children. However, with the YMCA facilities closed, along with the elementary schools where the Y operates its care programs, a triage team quickly formed to come up with a solution. This team included Elizabeth Taylor, Rappahannock Area YMCA COO, Alicia Kindred, YMCA Executive Director and Barney Reiley, Rappahannock Area YMCA CEO, along with superintendents from the schools where the YMCA operates.

"I've seen the communities work together in the past, but this was really a far-reaching effort on all ends to make this happen," Taylor said. "There is no template for serving children and families under the constraints and restrictions of a pandemic, so we put our heads and resources together to put a viable plan in place."

Fine-tuning the plan

As Taylor and Kindred began recruiting resources from their team of existing caregivers and working with the school districts where care centers could possibly open, Reiley received a call from a YMCA board member who was committed to taking Operation C.R.E.W to the next level. With the Y’s deep history of providing valuable programming that strengthens communities—and subsidizing program costs for those who can’t afford them—the board suggested providing the C.R.E.W. program at no cost to parents.

Reiley, whose YMCA was now short about 60 percent of its monthly programs revenue due to closures across its locations and its school care locations, didn’t have the budget to completely subsidize the C.R.E.W. program, so he and the board took the appeal to the community. The response was overwhelming and within a week and a half, the Y was able to organize and open its first two locations and raise enough funds to cover the first four to five weeks of care.

"The YMCA has been here in the Fredericksburg community for almost 50 years and has provided over $1 million yearly in financial assistance to those who can’t afford program costs," Reiley said. "We wanted to continue this mission and uphold this legacy of low- or no-cost programming, while thanking those who are on the front lines of this pandemic and helping to keep our community safe."

For some essential workers, finding and paying for childcare, with schools and daycares closed, would have been nearly impossible—both logistically and financially. As Brittanie Newbold, Patient Services Manager for Spotsylvania Regional Medical Center and mother of five, attested: "I'm very thankful for the Y helping us during this time. It allows me the opportunity to still serve those in need, while knowing my children are safe."

YMCA Staff

As a trusted child care provider for decades, the YMCA was well-positioned to offer the C.R.E.W. program to help hospital teams and other essential workers provide critical community care without worrying about childcare. They have screening and safety protocols in place, a full curriculum and vibrant activities for the children in their care.

Executing the plan

According to Kindred, all Y staff that are healthy and able are pitching in to ensure that the childcare centers are following strict safety protocols, while providing the same valuable programming they normally offer in before- and after-school programs. The staff members who are licensed to work with children run each of the classrooms, while non-licensed employees deep clean, stock supplies and assist with drop-offs and pick-ups. In total, there are 20 licensed employees currently working, with a 9:1 child to caregiver ratio, and 20 licensed employees on-call as needed.

A typical day at C.R.E.W. includes time for classroom learning and literacy, recreation and outdoor activities, art, STEM activities and lots of hand washing. To keep children and staff safe, there is a strict drop-off and pick-up protocol that includes taking the temperatures of children and staff and completing the COVID-19 Screening Tool. Children are also arranged so that they can practice proper social distancing and each child has their own set of supplies, which is not shared with others.

Where we’re going from here

The C.R.E.W. program, which has grown from two locations to four with 90 children in a few short weeks, is currently operating Monday thru Friday, 6 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. This schedule was based on the shift coverage needed by the majority of essential workers who were the first to begin using the childcare centers. But Taylor indicated that if additional coverage is needed in the future—especially as essential workers in other industries begin to enroll their children—the Y may extend the hours or days of operations.



"We have a mission and that is to help the community," Taylor said. "As the need increases, we’ll find a way to meet that need."

Direct Energy Business was honored to provide additional assistance to the Rappahannock Area YMCA, who is a valued customer of ours through TPI Efficiency. To make life a little bit easier for parents using the C.R.E.W. program care centers, Direct Energy Business worked with a local restaurant to provide family-sized, ready-to-go meals that were distributed to each family at evening pick-up.

If you’re interested in learning more about the C.R.E.W. program or supporting this initiative, visit the Rappahannock Area YMCA's website.




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