Anne Virzi works at an emergency veterinary hospital that she says is busier than ever. She also cares for her two grandsons. With schools closed she had to hire a babysitter, but the babysitter stopped coming for safety reasons.
“So when I got the email about the Y being open, it was like a blessing. It really was, it was a blessing for me. I was so relieved,” she said.
The YMCA of Greater Monmouth County, which has 11 locations throughout the county, secured state approval to be an emergency child care center for families of essential workers. Virzi’s grandkids were members.
Currently there are about 14 to 15 YMCAs around the state that have become emergency child care enters, and with that they have about 25 locations. But it’s only been about a week since they’ve been open and so they’re trying to get the word out to families who might still need child care.
“We provide financial assistance so that those who need the YMCA have access regardless of their ability to pay. So we’re here for everybody regardless of their financial background, right now and always,” said Laurie Goganzer, president and CEO of the YMCA of Greater Monmouth County.
They’re adhering to CDC guidelines for screening all staff and students at the door, separating the kids and wearing appropriate personal protective equipment. But the Y’s service goes well beyond child care.
“Locally, the need could be emergency child care, it could be feeding programs, it could be housing, it could be temporary shelter that’s needed, so it really depends. As we’re communicating with the local departments of health and the Office of Emergency Management, they’re identifying the ways that the YMCAs can be leveraged and use our assets to contribute to the community,” said New Jersey YMCA State Alliance CEO Darrin Anderson.
“While the treadmills, and the swimming pools, and all those things are unaccessible right now, we are so much more than that. We are a community resource center,” said Goganzer. “And we are doing the food distributions, the food drives, the blood drives, the mental and behavioral health work. We are doing so much right now.”
That includes telehealth sessions for those struggling with addiction or other emotional health challenges. And they’re doing it all with a shoestring staff. The Y of Greater Monmouth County had to lay off 80% of its employees.
“Our doors may be closed for fitness and swimming, but our hearts are open and we’re doing everything we can right now to serve the people in this community who need us,” Goganzer said.
They’re asking that those who can support them do so during this critical time.