Early Learning program students

As the number of licensed child care centers in Buncombe County continues to dwindle, many parents are left struggling to find qualified caregivers for their pre-school-age children so that they can go to work. This gap puts a particular strain on women, says YWCA of Asheville’s Chief Program Officer, Sala Menaya-Merritt.

“Women, particularly women of color, tend to be the primary caregivers, and often breadwinners, for families with children. When women have access to high quality child care, our economic opportunities expand. We understand that providing high quality, accessible child care is a part of how we fulfill our mission to eliminate racism and empower women," Menaya-Merritt said.

In order to increase the availability of such child care, Asheville’s YWCA recently underwent a renovation of four classrooms in their Early Learning Program, a 5-Star rated child care center that will serve over 140 children, from infants through pre-school.

The expansion included replacing floors, installing sinks, and creating capacity for an additional 36 children age 3-5 years thanks to support from the Buncombe County Commissioners. Additional support from the Community Foundation of WNC will enable the YWCA to finish renovating its kitchen to serve more meals and to to retrofit its playground to meet the needs of 3-5 year olds. As a part of the playground renovation, YWCA is calling for mural proposals to paint a mural to celebrate Thelma Caldwell, the first African-American director of the YWCA in Asheville. 

As YWCA ELP parent Cari Barcas says, “I deeply value the work the YWCA is doing to advance equity through its childcare programs accepting both private pay and voucher families, and I am so grateful that my daughter is being raised in a setting that celebrates diversity. This is such a huge need in our community, and I'm delighted to be supporting such a conscientious organization through my child's tuition."

“We’re proud and excited to be able to offer this additional capacity for working families in Asheville,” said Denise Purcell, Early Learning Program Director, “and we want to make sure that the community knows that we have these openings in our Early Learning Program.”

For more information or to register your child for Early Learning or NC Pre-K, call Denise Purcell, Director of Early Learning Program at 828-254-7206 x 106.

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