Emergency responders are thanking the Boys & Girls Club (B&GC) for their help with child care during the COVID-19 shutdown.
Last month, when most of Yankton’s businesses were closed, the B&GC opened its doors free of charge to the children of emergency responders.
Implementing medically recommended virus prevention procedures, the club, which had also been closed down since March by the arrival of COVID-19 to the community, reopened for families of first responders and medical personnel.
Ashli Danilko, the vice president of administrative services at Avera Sacred Heart Hospital (ASSH), was part of a team that worked closely with Yankton’s B&GC administrators to reopen the club safely.
“The B&GC heard our need to help medical and first responder families with daycare, and they quickly responded with their board approval to open the club,” Danilko told the Press & Dakotan. “The support for our front-line heroes in this uncertain time is greatly appreciated. The B&GC is providing consistent schedules, meals and time for fun, all while making a safe environment for our children.”
Danilko and her team initially reached out via email to first responders to gauge interest in the idea.
Katie Schaeffer, a nurse in the ASSH Same Day Surgery Department, and her husband David Schaeffer, a surgical technician at ASSH, responded that they were very interested.
The Schaeffers are currently sending their three youngest, boys, ages 6-7, to the club.
“Our daughter is 13, so it’s not like she can watch them, and me and David were taking turns,” Katie Schaeffer said. “One of us had to stay home with them. Luckily, it was slow enough that we were able to until we had the daycare.”
In early April, the B&GC agreed to take up to 40 children ages 5-11 from 7:30 a.m.-6 p.m. Club staff take temperatures outside and ask children and parents health-related screening questions before taking the children inside. Parents remain in their vehicles.
“Right now, there’s a max of eight kids in a room with two teachers. They’re keeping families together and it’s the same kids in the same room every day,” Schaeffer said. “They sent an email within the last week or two that a child had tested positive, but it was in a different room. There’s no interaction between the different rooms, so we were fine to continue. We didn’t have to isolate or anything.”
Hallways are cleared when groups of children are ferried through the club so individual groups never come into contact with each other.
Schaeffer is pleased to say that the children love their days at the club.
“They can go play outside or go play in the gym,” she said. “They really like the small (group size). They’re at that age where they still want to be the center of attention and so the classrooms are small enough that they get that.”
Instead of being forced to take sick leave to care for their children, the couple is now back to working partial days every day.
“This has really been a blessing,” Schaeffer said. “We’re just very thankful for them right now.”
Lynzee Reeves, resident coordinator at Sister James Care Center, was trying to find a daycare provider during shutdown for her five-year-old because his provider was retiring.
“It was a big challenge,” Reeves said. “There were some who were being told not to take anybody new. My dad actually watched my son for a week and then I found a daycare that could take him for a month.”
The Boys & Girls Club opportunity opened up at just the right time, she said.
“I was thinking, ‘Hallelujah!’” Reeves said. “Otherwise, it would have been who knows how many more daycares I would have had to go to.”
Reeves said she feels that the Boys & Girls Club is doing everything they can to keep the children safe.
Her son is happy to have a cousin is in his group at the club.
“That was a bit of a bonus that they get to see each other,” Reeves said. “I want to thank the B&GC for opening for health care workers. So we can still go to work and take care of our residents here.
“It’s just been a blessing.”
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