As local childcare agencies continue to offer critical services and support to children and families during this recovery phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, they are still faced with ongoing staff shortages, burnout, and shifts in safety protocols.
In January, United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley (UWMB) launched the Childcare Relief Fund to show appreciation for educators at childcare centers across the Commonwealth. As recipients of this fund, Berkshire United Way (BUW) and Northern Berkshire United Way together awarded $500 each to eight childcare programs to put toward health and safety equipment or staff wellness and appreciation.
“Working with Northern Berkshire United Way, we were able to quickly identify local childcare organizations where the funding should go and are pleased to recognize the hard work and essential service early childhood educators provide to our community. We appreciate United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley for including us in the initial round of funding,” said Katherine von Haefen, BUW Director of Community Impact.
Meal delivery for staff and bonus pay were some of the ways the funding was used. Berkshire County Head Start created “Wellness Workspaces” at their sites.
“We are so excited to see some funding in support of staff wellness,” said Brett Westbrook, Executive Director of Berkshire County Head Start. “These spaces will include desk bike chairs where staff can complete administrative work while being active to release tension, as well as relaxation corners where staff can regroup from the work that we do to support our children and families. This space will be designed for comfort and calming energy where staff can enjoy soft music, tea or coffee, and a healthy snack, and provide a lunch break area with mindful activities.”
Additional recipients included 18 Degrees, Berkshire South Regional Community Center, Child Care of the Berkshires, Gladys Allen Brigham Community Center, and Lee Youth Association.