Emergency fundraising campaign aims to boost morale among staff, provide necessary equipment for early childhood centers
BOSTON – United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley (UWMB) announced today that $110,000 of emergency funding has been raised to support local childcare centers that have recently experienced operational challenges in the wake of the Omicron variant. In January, United Way launched the Childcare Appreciation Fund to show appreciation for staff at area childcare centers.
Across early learning centers, the arrival of the Omicron variant caused an increase in illness among children and staff, which has in turn led to staffing shortages, necessary shifts in health and safety protocols requiring new equipment, and additional burdens on parents and guardians.
United Way works with dozens of childcare providers throughout the region, which serve over 10,500 children. These childcare centers primarily serve families with low income who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. To boost morale and cultivate needed equipment, United Way issued a call to action to corporate partners to “adopt” a childcare center either with a financial gift or a gift of testing and protective supplies.
“Childcare staff have always been essential workers in their communities, but their unwavering commitment to our young people has never been more apparent than the past two years,” said Bob Giannino, President and CEO at United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley. “They have been on the frontlines of the pandemic, working long hours, adapting practices and policies amidst constantly shifting public health guidance, and going above and beyond to provide care for some of our most vulnerable residents. We are hopeful that this campaign will bring more community awareness to the pressing needs of this critical industry.”
To date, United Way has raised over $110,000 with donations from AEW Capital Management, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, Boston Consulting Group, Boston Children’s Hospital, The Boston Foundation, Commonwealth Children’s Fund, Deloitte, Mintz, Ropes & Gray, WCVB, and multiple anonymous donors. In addition to the funds raised, United Way received in-kind donations of health and safety equipment. Bank of America donated 100,000 adult-size surgical masks, 13,000 pairs of medical-grade gloves, and 1,300 bottles of hand sanitizer. Proctor & Gamble donated 4,000 face shields and, in addition to their financial contribution, Mintz provided cases of masks, hand sanitizer and disinfectant spray.
The first round of funds have been distributed to childcare centers in UWMB’s impact area as well as other United Way organizations in the Commonwealth, including United Way of South Central Massachusetts, Berkshire United Way, United Way of North Central Massachusetts, United Way of Central Massachusetts, United Way of Greater New Bedford, and United Way of Pioneer Valley. UWMB anticipates another round of funding distribution and is currently planning a drive-through event for partners to pick-up the donated health and safety equipment.
“The early education sector is drowning. Each day is a struggle to keep classrooms open so children can thrive and parents can work. Everything about delivering high quality early childhood education to families is hard right now,” said Lauren Cook, Chief Executive Officer of Ellis Early Learning. “Only the levity and the joy children can bring make the daily struggles bearable. Thank goodness for the children, who bring joy and meaning to this particularly challenging time.”
United Way encouraged organizations to donate surplus health and safety equipment or contribute funds from expense budgets that have been underutilized due to the largely remote work environment. Many UWMB childcare partners expressed that a simple gift card to put towards meals for staff would show these essential workers that their community appreciates them and leaves them with one less worry during the day. Some grant recipients have already informed United Way as to their plans for the funds, which include staff wellness events, luncheons, individual gift cards for employees to use for meals, and purchasing branded clothing for staff. One childcare partner mentioned that even the brainstorming process about how best to use the grant is uplifting for staff and provides a welcome reprieve from their daily responsibilities.
“As advocates for early education and care, we know the field has struggled greatly during this latest COVID-19 surge. We continue to be inspired by this dedicated and resilient workforce and their commitment to problem solving, building partnerships, and providing high-quality learning experiences under incredible circumstances,” said Amy O’Leary, Executive Director of Strategies for Children. “The United Way stepped up to organize this fund so we can all extend our appreciation to early educators and program staff. They are essential for our economy, and the young children and families in our communities.”
United Way is still raising funds for this effort. To contribute and show your appreciation for local childcare workers, click here.