For first responders and essential personnel with school-aged children, finding quality, reliable child care during the coronavirus pandemic can be hard. In order to help those supporting the local community on the front lines or through necessary businesses, YMCA of the Pines set up an emergency child care program at its camp facility located at 1303 Stokes Road in Medford. The program is offered to essential workers through the State of New Jersey at no cost.
“Our focus at YMCA of the Pines has always been supporting the community. This often means adapting to the changing needs of our community, and right now is no different. We have shifted our traditional operating practices in ways that best serve our local families during these difficult times. We feel fortunate to be able to play a small part in providing a safe place for the children of first responders to explore, grow, and thrive while their parents are working hard to help the world become healthy again,” said Mark R. Dibble, the Chief Executive Officer at YMCA of the Pines.
The program will operate Monday through Friday, from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. and will include breakfast, lunch and an afternoon snack. Much of the program activities will take place outdoors at the 800-acre camp facility, to help ensure the safety of the participants through social distancing, to the extent possible. However, tables will be set up in the Ockanickon Dining Hall, and spaced out to allow the youth participants to complete school work during the day to ensure the students are able to stay on tracking with their studies.
“We are going to utilize our greatest asset, our large outdoor facility, to keep the kids engaged through nature hikes, field games, and other activities that will allow the youth to have an impactful experience while adjusting to this unique situation,” said Becca Gutwirth, the organization’s School Age Child Care Director. Gutwirth noted that the staff would be split between “helping students with their school work in the Dining Hall and engaging the students with outdoor activities, art projects, and more.”
To ensure the safety of the participants, the organization will be adopting heightened participant screening and facility cleaning protocols recommended by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Burlington County Department of Health, in addition to child care licensing requirements.
Greg Keresztury, the organization’s Chief Operating Officer, noted that “staff will be sanitizing the dining hall, including the tables, chairs and program supplies after each use, and hand-sanitizing dispensers and hand-washing stations have been installed around the property to allow staff and participants plenty of opportunities to clean up between activities and before entering the dining hall.” Keresztury further noted that “participants and staff will be screened for symptoms of illness, and have their temperatures taken at the start of the day prior to being allowed to join the program each day.”
To register for the program, essential employees must first register with New Jersey by visiting ChildCareNJ.gov, and then register separately with YMCA of the Pines by visiting YCamp.org/Register.