YMCA comes to aid of health care professionals, first responder’s children

By Kim Schmidt, Hub Staff Writer
Apr 9, 2020 Updated Apr 9, 2020

KEARNEY — The Kearney Family YMCA may be closed to its regular families and members, but it still is providing child care services for local health care providers and first responders.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the YMCA closed March 17. Immediately, Executive Director Denny Placzek said officials from both CHI Health Good Samaritan and Kearney Regional Medical Center contacted him about helping provide child care services for medical professionals and first responders.

First, the YMCA had to make a few changes to their facility to abide by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and hospital standards. Those included having eight to 10 children in a room and each room had to be separated from the others, separate eating and play areas and their own separate entrances.

When children arrive at the facility, their temperature is taken and they must wash their hands. “We try to make it as normal as possible from that point forward,” Placzek said.

“We’ve really stepped up our standards,” he said.

The YMCA is set up to care for up to 70 children ages 18 months to 11 years old, although they currently have about 20 children. During normal operation the Y is licensed by the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services to provide child care for 60 children, and 100 children for its after-school program.

The child care area and the hyper-gym each were split into four separate areas for children, including play and lunch areas.

“We just didn’t want these kids to be in a room all day and that’s all they could do, and the only place they could go,” Placzek said. “Being closed like we were and not having any children in the building was sad and difficult for our staff that were still here. But having just a few kids in the building and see the laughter and the smiles and the running around — seeing them enjoying themselves — makes you realize things are still pretty good for a lot of these kids, and that’s what we want.”

Children have activity and gym time, and work on homework, if needed.

If the pandemic worsens in Kearney, Placzek says the YMCA will continue to provide care to children of health care providers and first responders, with guidance from CHI, KRMC and the CDC.