VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Family support, like so much else, looks different during a pandemic. So, the Armed Services YMCA of Hampton Roads is revamping the way it reaches parents and children.
"These are our families," said Laura Baxter, the executive director. "We need to take care of them. So, we stayed open."
The independent nonprofit is based in Virginia Beach and is one of 13 YMCA branches providing local military families with outreach programs and community resources during the crisis.
"There was no before-and-after [school care] because the schools were shut down," Baxter said. "So, we automatically transitioned over to ... full childcare for mission-essential personnel."
The group is offering childcare services at limited capacity during the pandemic.
Participation in its digital youth programs, like Operation Little Learners for young children, and Operation Hero for school-aged children, is on the rise.
"The challenges just of being a military kid in a military family - those are after-school programs that aren't happening [right now]." said Baxter. "We started a virtual program for that with a virtual classroom, and the kids loved it."
Supporting military parents and children has always been the nonprofit's mission. Now, more than ever, its community's health and safety are priority number one.
"[Military parents] don't have the opportunity, as some might, to stay and work from home, and do virtual learning with their child," said Baxter. "So, we make sure that, in partnership with what the military themselves provide in terms of childcare, that we're there to support."