Grantee submission by: Lindsay Landis, Director of Development

How did the funding or non-monetary support you received from the Foundation impact your organization and/or the community?

The Foundation was instrumental in helping us open the YMCA Mericle Family Center (MFC) for Early Childhood Education on Oak Street in Pittston. This building is an innovative adaptive reuse of a former non-profit office building, turning the building into 15 classrooms to serve children aged 0-12 years in daycare, preschool, and elementary school age before/after care. The Foundation helped us both to furnish the classrooms and equip the commercial kitchen, among other supports provided in the last few years. The furnishing of classrooms and provision of a kitchen are important to the childcare program: in current childcare curricula, learning is achieved through play and movement, via a classroom arranged with materials grouped in thematic centers the language center, the math center, and the building center. The MFC also provides CACFP (USDA Child and Adult Care Feeding Program) meals to all youth served by the Center, and to the childcare center in Pittston. In 2022, after the kitchen was completed, the MFC served 22,319 meals and 16,291 snacks to preschoolers through school age youth. As of February 2023, with all classrooms furnished, the MFC has 109 total enrolled 41 in the after school program, and 68 in early childhood education; some capacity remains to be filled when the YMCA completes hiring teachers. Quality preschool education is an important precursor to school and future success; and in addition, youth feeding helps youth academically and socially, and relieves families of both time and financial crunches.

Share a quote or anecdotal story from a client or employee of your organization that illustrates the impact of your work.

The Greco-McHugh family became a part of the Greater Wyoming Valley Area YMCA family through the preschool program in Wilkes-Barre. With three beautiful children, the family was looking for an individualized, movement-based childcare program. They found the YMCA staff was committed to supporting each child’s uniqueness, and helped to prepare Angelina, Gabby, and Tori to enter kindergarten. They now attend Rice Elementary and the Y is still a big part of their lives, from summer Power Scholars Academy to Camp Kresge, youth sports programs to the YMCA swim team. Of all the activities Angelina has ever participated in, she lists the Y as #1 because it has truly been a second home to her. The entire family continues to value the welcoming and inclusive environment they find here at our YMCA.

What do you most want the community to know about your work and/or what excites you most about the future of your organization?

We most want the community to know that the work of the YMCA is much more than a gym. The Y in Luzerne County has been expanding to serve the community by opening new childcare and other locations going from two to five locations between 2020 and 2023 and is poised to expand further. In addition, the Y has been strengthening our childcare programs for families including youth feeding, curriculum development, and now a dedicated MESH (mental, emotional, social health) staff member. The Y is progressing up the Keystone Stars quality assurance ladder, with two facilities at the highest Star 4 status, and opening Pre-K Counts classrooms.