Stuart C. Gildred Family YMCA recently named four staff members as "Cause-Driven Leaders of the Month" for their dedication to helping serve the Santa Ynez Valley and greater community during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since May 4, Stuart Gildred has been providing child care services to children of essential workers, following in the footsteps of the Lompoc and Santa Maria YMCAs who launched their special programming on March 25 and April 13, respectively.
According to Regional Executive Director of Stuart C. Gildred YMCA and Lompoc Family YMCA Thomas Speidel, staff members Kristy Parra and Brianna Gusman are being recognized for kickstarting Lompoc's program, and with the help of coworker Finn Porter, also launched Santa Ynez Valley's program at Oak Valley Elementary in Buellton.
Staff member Sonja Janos is being recognized for her role in childcare services that included helping distance-learning students with homework and Zoom calls.
Stephanie Saucedo, the youth development director at Stuart C. Gildred YMCA, alongside Speidel, helped to co-pilot both Lompoc and Santa Ynez Valley programs and train Santa Maria YMCA staff prior to launching. She also continues to attend online childcare courses pertaining to the new and vital guidelines set in motion by the county.
The weekday program will be based out of Oak Valley Elementary in Buellton.
"The day schools closed, we were worried about essential workers," Speidel said, noting that because of funding from the Emergency Child Care Initiative for which Lompoc's branch had been approved, child care services for essential workers were immediately underway. "The next day on March 16, a meeting was held by Lompoc Valley Medical at 5:45 a.m. I think it's the earliest meeting I've ever attended."
Since its inception, the Lompoc program has continued to provide care for more than 40 children of essential workers.
With schools still closed amid the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, Lompoc Unified School District leaders have joined with other community partners to provide free childcare for local families that are on the pandemic’s front lines.
Despite Stuart C. Gildred Family YMCA not being approved for the same emergency funding as Lompoc, Speidel was able to serve the community. He credits private donations for helping to launch a valleywide program which supported more than a dozen children during the COVID-19 shutdown.
Speidel says due to the commitment of his staff – one of which made the choice to work and sacrifice visiting her grandmother with cancer – and the quick work of community partners, Stuart Gildred was able to rise to the occasion. And he says they are better for it.
"Other [Santa Ynez Valley] school districts turned us down, but Buellton stepped up," Speidel said. "Everyone was nervous during that time, and I completely understand ... I especially want to give kudos to Buellton superintendent, Dr. Haggard. He is why Oak Valley was able to host our program."
The four staffers who were named Cause-Driven Leaders of the Month – similar to employee of the month – also received certificates and will now be eligible for the annual Dean Anders Spirit of the 'Y' Award.
"It's the least we can do for them after stepping up during this challenging time," Speidel said.
Both low and high-impact virtual classes are offered and include: yoga, Barre, bootcamp, Tai Chi, workouts for kids, weightlifting and sessions for active older adults.
Lisa André covers Valley Life for Santa Ynez Valley News.
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