LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — When Fayette County Public Schools announced the district would start the school year online, the Salvation Army in Lexington pivoted to provide an all-day program for dozens of families.
During non-pandemic times, the Salvation Army hosts a Boys and Girls Club after school, but the organization realized with school being from home, families it serves needed more than after-school care.
Krista Whitaker, the Salvation Army community relations and development coordinator, has been a part of the new program since its inception in August. She said the all-day program was born after hearing about NTI struggles from families around the community.
"We were hearing from even people within our own circle is, 'How are we going to manage kids at home, at computer work that we don't know how to manipulate?' And so on and so forth," Whitaker said. "So, we thought wouldn't it be great to take our space here and help the community by setting up some classrooms and provide some tutoring for NTI?"
The program hosts between 30 and 40 students from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday for $90 a week.
"We were able to hire tutors (from Asbury College and the University of Kentucky) to come in and help support our students doing NTI and so we're supporting the students at Hanger Lodge, we are supporting our Boys and Girls Club regular students who were here at day camp and then our employees' children," Whitaker said.
Parent Nicole Love said she does not know what she and her husband who work full-time would do without this support for their two children during the pandemic.
"We are very blessed to have the Boys and Girls Club here as an option for them, providing full-time, not just childcare, but that virtual tutoring program for them," she said. "When they're here, all of their needs are met: their physical needs, their learning needs, their social needs. It's a blessing. It's a godsend to our family; to my children to have this as an option. I feel like it's a gift to me as a mother."
Throughout the day, students wear masks as they complete their coursework and participate in socially-distant activities put on by the Boys and Girls' staff. Each child is also provided breakfast, lunch, and dinner to take home, and also a snack.
"Depending on their school, everybody's schedules a little different, but they are definitely thriving in having some routine," said Whitaker.
"It's a huge responsibility and cost to a place to take on the extra staffing the extra ratios the extra cleaning protocols. So, for a childcare center to want to take that on is a big commitment and a big, big undertaking and I'm so glad that they've made this commitment," said Love. "It's a huge need and it's such a beautiful thing to see the Salvation Army really meeting people where they are at this time of significant need and instability."
Whitaker said this is just what she and her team are trained to do.
"The mission of the Salvation Army is to help your neighbor, and that this is one of the ways that we're certainly attempting to do that," she said.
Since this program goes beyond what the Salvation Army is accustomed to offering the Lexington community, any donations from the community will keep their doors open to these children in dire circumstances for as long as possible.