Essential workers get safe place for kids from YMCAs

Families of essential workers are having a hard time finding good daycare but thanks to Bay Area YMCAs, that dilemma is changing.

Nikki Whitaker had trouble finding care for her 6-year-old son, Nikolos.

"We don't have anybody nearby, family-wise that could watch him," Whitaker explained. "When we got word the schools were closing down, we had a lot of panic... We were debating on flying my dad down to watch him but then you are putting your older parent at risk so that wasn't an ideal scenario either."

Whitaker is a pharmacist and considered an essential worker. She needed a safe place for Nikolos to go while she went to work.

She was relieved when she got an e-mail at work about the YMCA essential workers program. The initiative provides low-cost, structured care for children of essential workers.

"We wanted to make sure that this is the one thing that they didn't have to worry about," said YMCA President & CEO Matt Mitchell. "There is so much going on with our essential workers, making sure we have food on our tables, making sure that our loved ones are safe and healthy."

The kids are divided into groups of nine and have their temperatures taken before entering the building.

"We've created a safe and constructive environment for kids where they can still engage with a friend, get that social aspect in their lives that they need when they are young and developing," Mitchell said.

Children swim, study, and do creative activities.

"It’s been wonderful. They send us pictures every day," Whitaker said. "They're exercising every day, they're getting time outside. They have time to do reading, to do school work."

For Whitaker, it's been a burden lifted.

"It’s just a huge relief to know that's he here and that's he's having a good time," she said.

21 Ys across the Bay Area are participating in the program. The cost is $50 bucks a week. For information, visit

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