Financial aid can take many forms at the YMCA, but one of the lesser known forms of assistance occurs in the form of the support of the families who put their children in our care. Many times, we offer childcare assistance to families that need a temporary hand while they overcome a challenge with employment. This year, the Northern Dauphin County YMCA lent a hand to a very special family in their community, the Barnes family. Proprietors of an auto body shop in Harrisburg, the Barnes family was transitioning their day to day life north to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Heather describes the community as “tight-knit and small – the kind of place where you know everyone you see at the store.”
In December of 2017, right before Christmas, the Barnes family suffered a terrible blow. The auto shop in Susquehanna Township caught fire, and burned to the ground, devastating their income at the time. Heather immediately needed to take time off of work to help her husband handle the growing needs of the tragedy – insurance calls, site visits, and other items in an ever-growing list of things to do. “We didn’t know what would happen next,” she said. “We weren’t sure how we were going to move forward or when our insurance would help us financially.”
Heather’s daughter was in the YMCA’s preschool program in Halifax at the time of the fire, and she contacted the center to let them know she needed to figure out how to pay for ongoing care. “They told me we’d figure it out later, and to keep bringing her to school. I was so grateful that they were able to give her a sense of stability at a time when everything was in transition.” Executive Director Chelstan Anderson saw the family struggling, and the YMCA reached out to make sure they were taken care of, even sending Christmas treats and presents to the family. “It’s a great feeling for me to be able to reach out into my community with my coworkers and provide for others,” Chelstan said. “Our community here at the Y is always looking for ways to help ease the burden where we can, and it just so happened we were able to provide something meaningful because of the generosity of our donors and sponsors.”
In Halifax and Elizabethville, the need may be greater than meets the eye. The rolling farm hills actually contain families that are stretched trying to make ends meet, some for the short term, and others in more dire straights needing solutions that challenge the conventional systems put in place to provide aid. In the case of the Barnes family, their need was temporary, but to Heather, the assistance they received was a huge blessing and gave support when she didn’t ask for it. “We felt that the Financial Aid Program would be very impactful for them, and the other staff here at the Northern Dauphin County YMCA agreed, so we extended the offer, and made sure they knew it was a gift that didn’t need to be repaid,” said Chelstan.
Heather paused, with tears in her eyes, and said, “I had never been in the position where I needed help like that. And it helped so much. I really don’t know what we would have done. There’s a lot of people who are trying every day, and sometimes something happens. It just helps to make getting by possible.” And that is what we feel is the biggest benefit of the Financial Assistance program. The ability to jump in and support our local community, and build others up makes all the difference. In 2018, the YMCA provided $26,505 in financial aid to families for childcare and will continue to provide assistance when families just need a little extra hand keeping their little ones safe.
The Barnes family is now back to full strength, and Heather’s daughter still attends the preschool program where she has made friends and has adults in her life that she trusts. Through the generosity of the YMCA donors and sponsors, her life didn’t need to change because of a disaster. And that’s why the Y is important to Heather. “There are so many people that don’t know that these programs are available, and they can help so many people. I want people to know that there is help out there and that they don’t need to be afraid to take it,” she said with a smile. “I don’t know what we would have done without the YMCA.”