When Tyra Andre’s go-to daycare center closed a few weeks ago, she started to worry.
The clinical lab scientist was working 10-hour days as the coronavirus pandemic spread. New at her company, she hadn’t accrued enough time off to take off even a week of work. Her normal backups were also essential workers.
What would she do with Isabella, her 5-year-old daughter?
“We can’t just stay at home because everything is shutting down," Andre said. "We have to help the community and the world with everything that is going on.”
The YMCA stepped in to help.
After all of the Tampa Bay area locations ceased normal operations a few weeks ago, 21 facilities were repurposed as all-day care facilities for children of healthcare providers, police officers and first responders.
The YMCA Youth Relief Care for Essential Workers kicked off March 23. Last week’s tuition cost $125. But thanks to donations from the community, the new cost is just $50 a week.
The YMCA asked members to consider keeping their memberships active so dues could be used as a charitable contribution to the program, said Matt Mitchell, president and CEO of the Tampa Metropolitan area YMCA.
"It wasn’t really surprising, but it was still very thrilling that so many of our members stepped up and said yes.”
Shortly after, the YMCA received a $100,000 grant from Florida Blue to continue the program.
“We’re doing this at an extreme financial loss to our YMCAs," he said. “A lot of businesses are forgoing revenue right now and that’s no different for a nonprofit.”
“But the environment that these health care providers are facing everyday is so dire that we wanted to pass on the generosity of our members and the generosity Florida Blue to them so it’s one less thing they have to worry about.”
There are about 700 children, ages 5 to 12, currently participating in the program. The YMCA has space to safely host about 2,400.
Children have their temperatures taken every morning to make sure they do not have a fever before entering. Rooms are sanitized at the end of the day.
Activities are done in groups of ten and participants are spaced at least six feet apart to maintain social distancing recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The program provides a mix of time for schoolwork, as well as exercise and arts and crafts.
"The resiliency of kids is revealed in situations like this, and they’re digging right into their homework,” Mitchell said.
With Florida public schools closed for at least another month, the YMCA’s programs are tentatively scheduled through May 1.
That’s no problem for Isabella.
“She got to swim, do outside activities and nature actives," Andre said. "She does all kinds of stuff, plus the work that she has to do.”
Plus, Isabella seems to be picking up some healthy habits in the program.
“I actually heard her singing her ABCs when she was washing her hands,” her mom said.
For more information, call one of the following locations:
- Jim & Heather Gills YMCA - 727-328-9622
- Bardmoor YMCA - 727-394-9622
- Childs Park YMCA - 727-209-9622
- YMCA at Lealman Exchange - 727-895-9622 ext. 4102
Tampa Metropolitan Area YMCA
Camps at these locations run from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Participants at these location will receive daily breakfast and lunch provided by the Hillsborough County School District. Qualified employees can register here: https://www.tampaymca.org/relief-care.
- Bob Gilbertson Central City Family YMCA, 110 E Palm Ave., Tampa.
- Bob Sierra North Tampa YMCA Youth and Family Center, 4015 Ragg Road, Tampa.
- Campo Family YMCA, 3414 Culbreath Road, Valrico.
- East Pasco Family YMCA, 37301 Chapel Hill Loop, Zephyrhills.
- New Tampa Family YMCA, 16221 Compton Dr., Tampa.
- North Brandon Family YMCA, 3805 59th St. W, Bradenton.
- Northwest Hillsborough Family YMCA, 8950 W Waters Ave., Tampa.
- Plant City Family YMCA, 1507 YMCA Place, Plant City.
- South Tampa Family YMCA, S Himes Ave., Tampa.
- Spurlino Family YMCA at Big Bend Road, 9650 Old Big Bend Rd, Riverview.
- YMCA Camp Cristina, 9840 Balm Riverview Road, Riverview.
YMCA of Greater St. Petersburg
Camps at these locations run from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Qualified employees register here: http://www.stpeteymca.org/childcare/youth-relief-care-for-essential-workers/.
- Jim & Heather Gills YMCA, 3200 First Ave. S, St. Petersburg.
- Bardmoor YMCA, 8495 Bryan Dairy Road, St. Petersburg.
- YMCA at Lealman Exchange, 5175 45th St. N, St. Petersburg.
YMCA of the Suncoast
Camps at these locations from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Qualified employees register here: https://bit.ly/3daGnjB.
- Citrus Memorial Health Foundation YMCA, 127 W Norvell Bryant Highway, Lecanto.
- Clearwater YMCA, 1005 S Highland Ave., Clearwater.
- James P. Gills Family YMCA, 8411 Photonics Drive, New Port Richey.
- Greater Palm Harbor YMCA, 1600 16th St., Palm Harbor.
- Hernando County YMCA, 1300 Mariner Blvd., Spring Hill.
- North Pinellas YMCA, 4550 Village Center Drive, Palm Harbor.
- Greater Ridgecrest YMCA, 1801 119th St. N, Largo.
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