Your generous cash donation opens the doors for children, adults and families who otherwise could not afford the cost of programs and membership to participate in the Y. Your support today is more important than ever. At the Missoula Family YMCA, 40 percent of our members receive financial assistance or subsidies for their memberships. Half of the more than 300 families in our childcare programs cannot afford to pay full price and receive financial assistance. In 2008, we provided more than $450,000 in financial assistance for programs and membership. The need throughout 2009 has been even greater. As of August 2009, we project that by year-end we will have awarded more than $600,000 in scholarships and financial assistance to people in our community. Your cash donation will help us do more.
Here’s just one example of how your donation will make a difference in the life of a family.
The Missoula Family YMCA serves more than 300 children in childcare each weekday. A large portion of these children are enrolled in Y preschool. The preschool program offers children a chance to interact with peers, participate in age-appropriate activities and most important, have fun. To many families this is the sole purpose for enrolling their child in preschool. But to a select few, the Y serves a much different purpose all together.
One such family consists of a single mom, “Kendra,” and her 3-year-old daughter, “Emma.” She works full time at a minimum-wage job. With no car, Kendra is left to scramble for rides, to catch a bus from work to pick up Emma at Y childcare, and more often than not, she must ride a beat-up bike with her child in tow through all types of weather. When she first brought Emma to the Y, it was apparent that Kendra was barely able to read or write. With the help of the Welcome Center staff, our childcare director and myself, we enrolled Emma in our preschool program.
Every month, Kendra is dedicated to paying her co-pay of $5 for her Emma’s childcare. Often times it is in change and a few crumpled up dollar bills, but nonetheless it is always paid.
For Kendra, the YMCA is not just a daycare; it’s the only family she and Emma have. Kendra once told our staff, “I can’t depend on anyone but myself.” I told her she could always depend on the Y staff and families. Her only response was a silent hug.
To Kendra, the YMCA serves as a safe place to bring Emma, where she knows she will be fed, taken care of, taught the values of caring, honesty, respect and responsibility, and most importantly, loved. The YMCA has also proven a helpful parenting tool for Kendra. With that said, Kendra’s loyalty to Emma’s happiness and participation in our program is endless.
One instance, in particular, will always stand out to me. Every year the preschool puts on a Christmas Pageant. The children in our preschool program get so excited preparing for and performing the pageant. They talk about it endlessly for days and days. The night of the 2008 pageant was extremely cold. In attendance that evening were Emma and Kendra. Emma along with all of her classmates performed their little hearts out. When the pageant concluded, Kendra bundled Emma up for the trip outside into the bitter cold. I didn’t think anything of it, everyone was preparing to race from the building to their cars just to avoid the awful weather.
But soon it became clear to me that Kendra and Emma had a much longer walk than just to the parking lot and their car. I asked Kendra how she and Emma were getting home. Kendra explained to me that she had to make a decision that day: After picking up Emma from preschool they could have caught the last bus home but that would have meant missing the pageant. Or, they could attend the pageant and walk home. Kendra said she couldn’t bear the thought of Emma missing the pageant, even though she was only 3 years old. Kendra felt she was unable to provide so many things for Emma and this was not going to be one more. One of the other amazing preschool parents overheard our conversation and offered a ride home. Kendra gladly accepted. When I thanked the mother for her generosity, she simply replied that it was not an inconvenience.
As I look back on that night, I am truly in awe. I am in awe of the parent who helped Kendra and Emma. She will always be a true example to me of an amazing human being. I am also in awe of the Kendra who invests so much in Emma’s happiness by ensuring she can participate like any other child. The thought that the Y was and is such an important pillar in Kendra’s and Emma’s lives will stay with me forever.
Through the runny noses and tears, the upset tummies and split milk, I will never forget the importance of our program to the families we serve.
By Katie Brasington, Y staff member