Sometimes You Just Have to Roll With It
The gardening project at St .Cloud is inextricably tied to what is happening at the Y, and this has been a year like no other. August is always a busy month at the Y. We were well and truly in our camp groove, but also tasked with looking ahead to our next big lift – getting ready for back to school.
We had so many reasons to be optimistic. Prior to COVID-19, we had served over 1,000 children each day in our before and After School programs. We had over 90 staff working across 15 schools in 4 school districts. 2020 saw enrollment plummet as we navigated remote learning and families adjusting to work from home schedules. In the Spring of 2021 we started to see movement back to in-person learning and interest building in returning to our programs in the Fall of 2021. Registration was strong, we were back to almost 60% of our pre-covid enrollment by August.
But then we noticed that applications for all of the Group Leader and Site Supervisor positions was virtually non-existent. We had at least 15 positions to fill to get us up to our minimum staffing levels. And that is when the stress really began. It wasn’t just us, it was everywhere. The cruel irony that now that things were opening up and we had positions to fill, we had no prospective new hires. At the same time we were also impacted by the great resignation – three Directors resigned in a three month period.
September went by in a blur. It was all hands on deck with the after school programs while we kept all the other balls up in the air. One of the most exciting things was having 30 kids enrolled in the After School program at St. Cloud. That meant a brand new crop of gardeners to work with and to introduce to the mustard spinach, which was thriving! Our new team worked on reconditioning the soil and getting the beds ready for Fall crops. The kids were getting to know each other and adjusting to being back in school but one thing was for sure – getting outside to garden was one of the most anticipated activities of the week along with rolling down the hill….I think there was a lesson there, when you don’t have any control, you just have to roll with it!
About the Grantee
The West Essex YMCA, a Branch of the Metro YMCA of the Oranges, is a mission driven organization and trusted community partner in youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. The Y has been serving the needs of the community for over 50 years, providing a wide variety of activities and programs in an environment welcoming all.