The CEO of the Missoula Family YMCA says a generous $2,000,000 gift from the Washington Foundation will help fill a critical gap for parents seeking care for the youngest children. 

Heather Foster says the gift announced Thanksgiving weekend shows Dennis and Phylis Washington's continued support of the "Y" and the Missoula community.

News of the gift provides a major shot in the arm for the YMCA's campaign to completely re-work its Russell Street campus, with the agency showing its gratitude by naming the Early Child Care Center after Phylis Washington, whose own children grew up playing at the "Y".

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"Well we were incredibly excited and you know, I think it not only adds a lot of credibility to our project," Foster told me. "It shines a light on the importance of childcare and early education, and I think our childcare crisis. So we are so unbelievably grateful to the Washington family and to the foundation. For the support, I can't even find the words to say how incredibly grateful we are."

The Washington Foundations' gift allows the "Y" to double the childcare capacity

"Our Y is the largest provider of licensed childcare in the State of Montana and we do that through early education programs," Foster explains. "We have two childcare centers, one here on this campus that is one we are going to completely build new and double our capacity for childcare for kids six weeks through five years old on this main campus. But we also run licensed after-school programs and licensed summer camp programs. That's how we get the designation of being the largest."

Of particular interest is how the expansion will help parents of the youngest kids.

"So we take those little fresh babies and that is the hardest, most challenging wait lists that we see all over Missoula. Infant care is particularly challenging to find and so increasing access to that, I think, will also help alleviate some of our workforce shortage we're experiencing."

The gift puts the total "Here for Good" campaign total to $11,000,000, with another $4,000,000 to raise by next spring.

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