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Photo by Kathryn Ross

Socialization will be a big part of their day for 3-year-olds Zoe Slocum (right) and Paisley Greenan at the Wellsville YMCA’s new Early Learning Center.


By KATHRYN ROSS

WELLSVILLE — Relief has come to the working parents of infants and toddlers living in Wellsville and the surrounding area.

Brianna Simms knows firsthand what a problem it is to find good day care for a baby when your husband leaves for work at 6 a.m. and you leave at 7 a.m. and don’t get home until after 6 p.m. Like other young parents during the COVID-19 pandemic, with day care after day care closing their doors, they struggled to find day care for their 6-month-old.

Now their search is over.

On Aug. 30, the YMCA — incidentally where Simms is the executive director — opened an Early Learning Center for children from 6 weeks old to preschool age, just two doors down from the Y.

At a ribbon-cutting ceremony in the entrance, CEO of the YMCA for the Twin Tiers Jeff Townsend said Simms was instrumental in getting approval for the new facility and getting it up and running.

“The truth is success starts with strong leadership, vision, passion, and follow through,” Townsend said. “All words I would use to describe Brianna Simms who has championed and spearheaded this project from inception to completion. Brianna has truly done an outstanding job leading this project and I am very proud of her. I am so grateful to have gotten the opportunity to work with you and your project team.”

Simms was quick to point out that there were others who made the project possible from the permission of landlord Brad Whitford of L.C. Whitford Company in allowing the renovations to take place to funding and support from Sherry Walton and Charlie Joyce.

Sims explained, “In 2017 I started my career here at the YMCA of the Twin Tiers as the childcare director of the Wellsville branch. Not long after that I began to dream about bringing an Early Learning Center to Wellsville just like we have in Olean and Bradford. In 2021 I accepted the position of executive director of the Wellsville YMCA and that fall Barbara Sweitzer, the CEO at the time, sat down with me and said how can we accomplish that goal.

“In the spring of this year, we started advocating out in the community about the importance of and the value an Early Learning Center would add to Wellsville. It was not long before Sherry Walton and Charlie Joyce heard our vision and believed in it. They understood that an early education is one of the most important assets we have that we can offer our children. With their generous support we were able to finally start breaking ground.”

Townsend said, “The YMCA is truly blessed to have so many dedicated volunteers staff community leaders and vendors that are willing to support and champion us on this project and all that we do for the community.”

He continued that the Early Learning Center will be a “pillar of the Wellsville community” as it not only will it provide much needed child care for up to 50 children, from infants to preschoolers. It will also add between 15 and 20 new local jobs.

Townsend said the center will “breathe new life into this end of the Riverwalk Plaza and will truly be a foundational building block for the social, emotional, and preschool learning. The children and families that participate in this new ELC will find their transition into traditional education to be seamless. We already know that children coming from ELC have a distinct advantage when entering school.”

As part of the Early Learning Center children will be provided with an age-appropriate education curriculum from learning spatial concepts to socialization. The center will also supply breakfast, lunch, and a snack.

One of the new parents, Donald Greenan, enrolling his daughter, Paisley, 3 1/2, said, “This will help get her used to being with others and help with her socialization as she gets ready to go into pre-school.”

With her 10-month old daughter Hailey playing with soft blocks, Maurine Caschera said, “Oh my gosh, this is a godsend. We were struggling to find consistent childcare and this new program will help us out.”

The facility is open Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. The cost of the program is based on the amount of time the child is at the facility. There are plan options, subsidies, and financial programs. For more information contact the YMCA at (585) 593-3246.