Leroy Emerson, left, and Joshua Maloney-Steward play air hockey during day care at the YWCA in Lewiston on Tuesday afternoon. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

LEWISTON — The YWCA has reopened enrollment for its child care services and prioritizing caregivers who provide essential services to the community during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Melanie LaMore Gagnon, executive director of YWCA Central Maine, said Tuesday that the decision was made late last week, after most school districts, including Lewiston and Auburn, announced they would remain closed until at least April 27.

Gagnon said the YWCA has not stopped serving the community, including some of its most vulnerable, during the recent crisis, but child care enrollment recently dropped to 27 due to families self-isolating.

“As more child care centers close throughout the state, the YWCA will continue to operate its licensed child care facility to provide a safe setting for children while their parents are serving the community,” a news release said.

The YWCA has capacity for 110, Gagnon said, along with updated protocols to keep children safe “while continuing to serve the families in need.”

She said first priority will be parents who are medical and emergency personnel, first responders, law enforcement officials and other “working families who still need safe care of their children during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Tuesday afternoon, following Gov. Janet Mills’ order to close all non-essential businesses, Gagnon said child care services are among those deemed essential, and that the YWCA will remain open during this time.

YWCA lead teacher Jennifer Gonyea helps a young boy in the prekindergarten day care with his lunch Tuesday at the Lewiston facility. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

The organization is sticking to a max of 10 children per group at the YWCA facility on East Avenue, owing to recommendations from the Maine Center of Disease Control and Prevention. The building has an outdoor space, gym, and classroom spaces available to host multiple groups at a time, Gagnon said.

After the release went out Friday, Gagnon said a number of nurses and other emergency personnel reached out.

Child care enrollment is open for children aged 2½ to 12 years, with the Y continuing to provide free breakfast, lunch and snack to children in their care while schools are closed.

Gagnon said the site is also operating as a public food pickup site for families with children who are not necessarily affiliated with the YWCA. On Tuesday, the organization offered food from 1-4 p.m. specifically for families with children younger than 18.

Those interested can call the YWCA at 207-795-4050 for more information or to enroll a child.

According to an earlier news release, donations are being accepted from the public to “support continued operations during this period.”


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