FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
ABINGDON, VA (September 1, 2020) – Amidst the pandemic, going “back to school” this year looks very different for children and parents across the region. While virtual learning seems to be a common thread for all, there was a recognized need for daycare, including some educational supports. Three local employers have partnered together to create a temporary employee benefit allowing essential workers within their organizations to return to work stress-free knowing their child(ren) are in good hands and able to focus on their school work.
Highlands Community Services (HCS) partnered with the Washington County Public School System and Washington County Administration to launch a program for the employees of the three organizations that serve as both child care and virtual learning space at our Children’s Campus in Abingdon, VA. HCS Executive Director Rebecca Holmes notes, “It was important for us to figure out a solution to this wide-spread community problem that didn’t force our employees to choose between work and family. So, we had to get creative.”
It all began with a brainstorming session with HCS Children’s Services managers on July 17 which resulted in a proposal being submitted to Holmes on July 24. Thirty (30) days to the date of the proposal turn in, we opened the doors to the first-ever HCS Child Day Camp. The entire process involved identifying a community/workforce need, figuring out a potential solution, developing an action plan and making it kid-friendly, safe and serviceable to families of the partnering organizations.
As a result, a lot of teamwork took place involving various departments and staff across the agency, culminating with a group of Children’s Services staff stepping up and accepting the challenge to provide childcare to 80+ children. The transformation at the HCS Children’s Campus was amazing as rooms/space were converted, furniture moved out and kid-friendly furniture brought in, floors taped off, Wi-Fi expansion was installed, PPE made available and staff schedules altered.
“I believe the effort into the whole process was a testament to our agency’s relentless ability to transform and be flexible during challenging times and absorb a community/workforce need. I am proud to be a part of an agency that has a no-quit attitude and a willingness to bless the lives of others,” said Shawn Miller, Director of Community-Based Children Services at HCS.
The camp opened its doors on August 24 and operates Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at our 383 Baugh Lane location. Students are between the ages of 5 and 12 and enrolled in Kindergarten through 7th grade. The program is staffed by HCS employees with a nurse on site. Attendees receive a COVID-19 health screening, including a temperature check and questions answered by the parents, every day of attendance before entry into the building. The camp offers social, creative and physical activities for children including arts and crafts, life skills presentations and gym and playground access all in addition to internet connectivity and supports for their virtual learning experience.
“It takes a huge load off of me as an employee to know that my daughter is in a safe environment with staff members who have gone above and beyond to make her feel welcome and comfortable in a new ‘school.’ I am super proud to work for an agency that not only looks out for its employees but also for the community as a whole in a very difficult and challenging time.” – Ashley Adams, Sr. Pediatric Therapist at HCS.
Highlands Community Services is a multi-faceted Virginia Community Service Board providing mental health, substance use and developmental services to the residents of Washington County and the City of Bristol, Virginia. Serving thousands of individuals each year, their goal is to provide a full continuum of care and to increase access to innovative mental health services by “improving lives and discovering possibilities” along the way. To learn more, please call 276.525.1550 or visit HighlandsCSB.org.