A Bright Start for All

Posted on October 30, 2019

CFCC Grant benefits affordable access to quality childcare 

Imagine all children, no matter their family’s financial ability, starting their day in brightly decorated classrooms, abounding with activity and learning opportunities led by caring and engaged teachers. This vision of the Greater Naples YMCA works to strengthen and serve the Collier County community by focusing on youth development. Currently, the organization provides working families affordable access to quality childcare by operating the Infant & Toddler Center, Pre-school & VPK, and their After School Program to its members. To help continue their dedicated work, Community Foundation of Collier County has awarded the YMCA a $10,000 Donor Advised Grant this past August that will go directly towards this program.

The Collier County Community Foundation’s grant will allow the organization to continue to provide for the families that need it most. In particular, it will provide financial assistance to low-income families from our community who struggle to afford quality daycare for their children. Greater Naples YMCA President and CEO, Mark Hanke, said proudly, “We never, in all those years, turned anybody away.” He emphasized that support from the Community Foundation helps to keep these programs running. The grant also gives the freedom to the YMCA to assist those who are unable to pay. He continues that the YMCA has “the ability to serve people who can’t necessarily afford the full rate.”

To address the growing needs of these families, the YMCA has responded by getting creative: retrofitting offices and closets into classrooms, and by relying on their hardworking staff to foster a proper learning environment. Heather Perkins, Operating Director of the Greater Naples YMCA, summarizes it: “Families need to work. Our kids need to have a safe and nurturing and educational space.” The Greater Naples YMCA aims to provide an environment in which children, age three months and up, can be loved, supported, and nurtured.

The Community Foundation grant also helps to provide support for the many activities and programs currently offered: water safety lessons, sports lessons, summer day camp, school readiness, and an after school program. Hanke pointed out that youth development programs are often behind the scenes and not visible to most YMCA members and residents in the community.  “A lot of people see the gym and the pool,” Hanke said, “They don’t see our work with children and after school programs.”

Currently, the YMCA Afterschool program serves over six local schools, as well as being onsite at Golden Gate Elementary. The over 100 children enrolled in the daily After School program are in an environment that emphasizes the vital building blocks for future success and a better quality of life.

Submitted by Annmarie Rousseaux