The Y is Here for Kids, Essential Workers, and Caregivers | 2021 Winter Impact Newsletter

Last updated: March 8, 2021, at 4:48 p.m. PT

Originally published: February 10, 2021, at 2:56 p.m. PT

kids at the ymca

In March 2020, overnight, kids and families lost access to the support they depended on. Schools and daycare closed leaving healthcare workers, first responders, and essential workers in a lurch. The impact of virtual school, loss of social and emotional learning, and increased hunger will not be fully seen for years to come, but it is some of our most important work to support families and kids as we all weather this most difficult storm.  

First Things First: Essential Childcare for Essential Workers  

When our Y branches closed to slow the spread of COVID-19, we transitioned those spaces into a safe childcare option for families who desperately needed it. First responders and essential workers were able to continue to fight the COVID-19 pandemic knowing their kids were safe, learning, and playing at the Y.  

"I just didn't know how we were going to make this extra childcare cost work. I don't know how to thank you enough. We were getting really worried about how we were going to pay everything and make all of our shifts."
- Community Parent 

Families cited the affordability, accessibility, and personalized care offered by the Y as reasons for continued participation. Staff were able to forge close bonds with families, fostering social-emotional wellbeing during a time of heightened uncertainty and stress.  

Supporting Virtual Learners and their Families  

Because of your support, we are quick to innovate new programs to meet the ever-changing needs of kids.  

Online learning is hard work. It’s especially difficult if your parents work full time. To support students and their parents, we created the Y Leap Academy, an in-person answer for elementary school kids and families as they navigate hybrid or virtual learning models. At YMCA Camp Orkila on Orcas Island, a similar program, as well as in person learning one day each week for K-8th graders, is the result of an incredible partnership with the Orcas Island School District, two local foundations, and individual donors that support education outdoors. 

Every child deserves school support, plenty of play, and enough to eat every day, no matter what.  

Almost 300,000 students in King County are in school remotely and there is a growing gap for youth who do not have equitable access and resources to engage in distance learning. Students of lower income, kids with diverse abilities, immigrant families, and youth living in communities who lack digital access are at highest risk for falling behind and not catching up.  

About one-in-five parents also said it was at least somewhat likely that their children would not be able to complete their schoolwork because they did not have access to a computer at home, and 21% have to use public Wi-Fi to finish their schoolwork because there was not a reliable Internet connection at home. 

Thanks to donors like you, we can offer financial aid for Y Leap Academy, making it accessible for all families. 

Building New Trails in the Outdoors  

In 2020, outdoor experiences were disappearing, but teens and families needed to get outdoors as a solution for isolation, growing mental health concerns, and the health benefits of nature. Camping & Outdoor Leadership staff were quick to innovate to make the most of what we could offer our community.  

BOLD & GOLD Wilderness Trips 

Thanks to donor support, we were able to offer 38 one-week backpacking trips serving 277 teens. These expeditions offered teens the opportunity to explore the outdoors, learn leadership and backpacking skills, and spend time safely with their peers.  

Camp Colman and Camp Orkila Reopen as Family Camps  

When it became clear that traditional camp just couldn’t happen this year, our resident camps reopened as a family camps. Families could reserve cabins and enjoy the traditional camp experiences safely within their pandemic pod.  

No Child Should Go Hungry  

In 2020, we served 467,000 meals, a 50 percent increase from 2019. Childhood hunger is unacceptable and yet, about one in four students are not sure where their next meal will come from. 

During a regular school year, the Y is always at work to make sure King County students have plenty to eat before and after school, during weekends, and school breaks.  

With school building closures and the economic impact of the pandemic, more kids are at risk for hunger and they’re harder to reach. To meet this growing need, we did what the Y does: We gathered our partners and we got creative. The YMCA Camp Colman kitchen, without the usual school groups in residence, got busy as a production kitchen to feed thousands of people in our region. With additional help from United Way of King County, FareStart, Microsoft, Ethan Stowell Restaurants, and others, we were able to begin meal delivery to King County Housing Authority and Imagine Housing residents in South and East King county.  

"Food banks have only been able to provide us canned goods and we could not afford fresh items like fruit and vegetables. The Y has been a blessing to us as they have been able to get us the fresh food we desperately needed." - Community Member 

Because of your unwavering support, the Y has been there for kids, essential workers, caregivers, and our community during one of the hardest years in recent history. Whether you are a Y member, community partner, Y donor, or volunteer, your investment has made a difference. We are forever grateful for you. 

Category: Impact Newsletter