Georgia Mountains YMCA

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Like other nonprofits in Jackson EMC’s service area, Georgia Mountains YMCA received an emergency grant last spring for which its staff and those served were thankful.

“The funds from the Jackson EMC Foundation helped us fulfill our mission,” says Director of Development Amy Booth.

Fortuitously, the YMCA had opened a childcare center a month before the pandemic changed day-to-day life in Georgia. Overnight, the new center transitioned into “Crisis Camp” to offer crisis childcare for families affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The “camp” was open for childcare from March 16 to May 22.

“It allowed us to offer childcare to medical professionals, first responders and other essential workers who relied on us to care for their children as they battled this virus on the frontline,” Booth says, noting she recognized increased stress levels in working parents who suddenly had kids home from school. “They ran the risk of losing jobs because they didn’t have childcare. One of the biggest things for parents who were still working fulltime was that schoolwork was adding huge stress. Kids being able to visit here with our counselors and certified teacher took that piece off the plate for the family.”

Fifty students attended Crisis Camp, according to Booth, who says that while a traditional YMCA day camp costs $135 per week per child, the cost for crisis childcare was reduced to $50.

“We lowered the cost and extended our hours to accommodate law enforcement, first responders and medical professionals whose shifts are typically 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.,” says Booth, noting that children received two meals, a snack, help with homework and socialization. “At a time when social distancing is a priority, the YMCA can provide socialization, and while we can’t give children hugs or even a high five, we can show them love and support.”

With help from counselors, students held Zoom sessions with their school teachers and were able to keep up with classwork in a fun and safe atmosphere, according to Booth.

“We truly appreciate the ongoing support of the Jackson EMC Foundation, which has supported us over the years,” she says. “This added assistance meant a great deal in helping us support the community around us.”

Tara is a single parent who appreciates the help. An administrative assistant with Northeast Georgia Health Systems, her job since the onset of COVID-19 has been to support counselors who help fellow employees deal with the stress and anxieties of the pandemic.

“I’ve seen this crisis from every angle,” says Tara. “Having this childcare has been a lifesaver for me because without it, I would have no job. I simply had no other childcare options. This meant the world to my daughter and me.”