Y Story: YMCA Comes to Employee's Rescue During Hardship

By: Mollie Shauger | Tuesday, June 9, 2020 | Social Responsibility

Anita Henderson

While our physical doors may be closed, the YMCA has remained open to serve members of the community facing hardships during the COVID-19 crisis. Those people in the community include Y members, their neighbors, and even Y staff.

Anita Henderson has worked in the South Mountain YMCA’s child care program for the last five years, caring for children ages 2-3 in the Pandas classroom. “I fell in love with it,” Henderson said of her job. “It’s family-oriented. Everyone there’s loving - the parents, administrative staff.”

In March, the coronavirus outbreak and the State’s stay-at-home orders forced the shutdown of normal operations at all Metro YMCA branches, including the South Mountain Y, and Henderson was among hundreds of employees to be sent home. Like other Ys across the country, the Metro Y association encountered unforeseen financial challenges from the loss of program attendance and other resources, and as result, was forced to temporarily lay off staff members across all branches. Henderson was among the staff impacted.

Henderson filed for unemployment in late March. Her application was “flagged” due to what she described as an error she made on the application. She began calling the state’s unemployment office every day, and emailing multiple times a day to make sure her application was being processed, but could not get a response.

With her husband out of work and her 2-year-old granddaughter to care for, she was getting worried. She was behind in rent, although she said her landlord was understanding. “No money was coming in. I had nothing,” she said. “It was really scary.” 

She didn’t know where to turn. ”I didn’t really have a lot of people to help me,” she explained. 

Then she learned about the Metro Y’s Employee Assistance Fund, which the association established and seeded with $100,000, to provide financial assistance for affected staff. With the help of Human Resources, she applied. Two weeks later, she received $750. She was so relieved, she was in tears.

“With [the Y’s] help I was able to buy food and essentials,” she said. “I was able to eat, and buy soap, and buy detergent to wash clothes. I could have a normal life.” 

Though she eventually began to receive her unemployment benefits after about seven weeks, Henderson said she’s “grateful” for the Y stepping up to help employees in need. “I want people to know there is help and people do care,” she said. “People need to know they're not alone in a situation like this.”

She noted that the Y recently sent her a care package with fruits and vegetables. 

At least 116 people have donated just over $30,000 to the Metro Y’s Employee Assistance Fund, and to date, we’ve awarded $133,000 to colleagues. Donations are still being accepted, as new requests come in each day. To donate, visit metroymcas.org


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