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YMCA work allows childcare expansion

Urbana center also seeks money for sidewalk safety projects.

The Champaign Family YMCA has completed a renovation project allowing the agency to expand its daycare operations, and now it’s seeking county money to improve nearby ramps and sidewalks in case of an emergency.

The agency recently renovated about 360 square feet in its facility on Community Drive, allowing the agency to serve an additional 30 children in its daycare program, said Mary Lee Gecowets, a board member for the organization. Previously, Mercy Memorial Hospital had leased that space for a physical therapy unit, but Mercy moved that program to another facility, freeing up space at the YMCA.

Daycare service has been identified as something needed by area residents, Gecowets said, and so the space was renovated to provide more slots to parents who might be able to use the program. Overall, the agency provides the service to about 300 children, she said.

“(The renovations) gave us an opportunity to look at what our needs are for serving the community,” said Paul Waldsmith, CEO of the Champaign Family YMCA.

As the program has expanded, Gecowets also recently met with the Champaign County commissioners to seek any funding that might be available to make the site more handicap accessible. Community Development Block Grants are provided to counties each year to help cover a variety of projects, including making areas more handicap accessible. They can also be used to improve areas with a high concentration of low and moderate-income families, and to eliminate slums and blighted areas.

It’s not clear that any funding will be left over this year to pay for sidewalk and curb improvements near the YMCA, Gecowets said, but she said the agency will likely seek funding next year if necessary.

Gecowets said the agency is seeking an accessible curb and sidewalk that could be used to help evacuate infants in the childcare program in case of a fire or other emergency. The agency is also looking to install two additional ramps to make the site more handicap accessible for visitors.

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