ELLSWORTH — Friends in Action will move its programs out of the Moore Community and Conference Center in the coming weeks to make space for a new “Remote Support Care” program for area schoolkids. The last day of classes for Friends in Action programs at the Moore Center will be Friday, Aug. 28.
“We’re not closing,” Jo Cooper, executive director of Friends in Action, reassured members. “Not at all.”
Cooper said that while some in the group, a nonprofit which serves senior citizens, were surprised by the sudden change in plans, “I’m hopeful that we’re going to find other ways to connect people and serve people that might even be better than being tied to one particular space.”
Cooper noted that even with huge drop-offs in volunteer participation in recent months, the group’s activities, which include transportation, meal delivery and grocery shopping as well as fitness classes, have been ongoing and more in demand than ever.
“We’re delivering over 100 meals a week,” said Cooper.
The Down East Family YMCA, which runs the Moore Center, has offered all Friends in Action members free access to the James Russell Wiggins Center on State Street, said CEO Peter Farragher, as well as offering for the fitness programs run by Friends in Action to be relocated.
“It’s a great community effort,” said Farragher.
Cooper said she plans to survey the group’s members to see if they would be comfortable shifting programs to the State Street facility. While the group is grateful for the offer, many participants are in a high-risk group for severe complications from COVID-19, said Cooper, and worry about having programming in a shared space with a single entrance.
“To be sharing a space with the general public is difficult,” said Cooper. “A lot of our people won’t even go to the grocery store.”
The group had restarted classes at the Moore Center very cautiously, said Cooper, using its own entrance and keeping classes, such as its Rock Steady Boxing, apart from others using the center, which wouldn’t be as doable at the State Street facility.
As for the space at the Moore Center, it will be transformed into a remote learning/child-care center for students in kindergarten through grade eight, said Farragher, with space for 100 students per day. The YMCA already operates an early childhood program in part of the building.
There will be several options for families who have opted for the hybrid learning model this fall, said Farragher. The Y has worked closely with School Department officials to come up with the plans, which will keep students in the same groups they are in school (either maroon or grey) and keep the groups separate.
The first option will be before school care, from 6:30 to 7:30 a.m., for $5 per day, said Farragher. The Y will also run an after-school program from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m., for $15 per day, and a full-day program for $40 per day from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. for students on days when they aren’t in school and need remote learning support.
“We’re really trying to make it as affordable as possible,” said Farragher. There are subsidies for families that need financial assistance, and a reduced fee for those who are part of the department’s free and reduced lunch program. There will be one set of rates, rather than YMCA member and nonmember rates, said Farragher.
Parents can choose the days they need, said Farragher, although to keep logistics simple, they’ll have to stick with the choice for a full ranking period.
When kids from a different group arrive for after school care, said Farragher, “The kids that are doing the Remote Support Care program at the Moore Center, they will all move down into the lower part of the section of the Moore Center and we will disinfect the upper side to receive the kids that are the opposite colors.”
He continued: “We’re able to keep the colors separate, keep kids more in their pods and provide care for a whole bunch of people.”
After-school programs will involve similar activities as in past years, including school help and outdoor play, with safety changes, of course.
“We are limited by space,” said Farragher, and the organization is following guidelines for safety set forth by the school.
Farragher said the Y expects there will be a waitlist and is currently recruiting staff “Like it’s nobody’s business.”
“We do know there’s a lot of families out there that are ‘podding’ themselves,” said Farragher, referring to families teaming up on child care and remote learning. “Hopefully, we’ll take a big dent into the need out there.”