The Youth Center: Keeping Kids on Track

The Youth Center provides child care services for families who live and work in the Los Alamitos area. This year has been the hardest in the nonprofit’s 68-year history.

The Youth Center re-opened shortly after the shutdown in March to serve the children of first responders, medical staff, and other essential workers. The Center currently serves (as of January 2021) 1,000 children at three locations in Los Alamitos. The kids come from 26 different cities, though their parents either work or live in Los Alamitos.

To stay open and make ends meet — and continue their streak of never having declined a scholarship for a single child — the Youth Center had to lay off some employees. Without its regular fundraisers, and with the pandemic struggles in addition, the Youth Center was in an unfortunate position.

“We’ve never seen such a high demand for scholarships as this year, and no funding coming in for registration fees” The Youth Center Executive Director Lina Lumme said.

The Center underwrites the scholarships for families that lost jobs or took jobs that paid less. The families needed to keep their home and keep working, and the kids needed to be somewhere.

Without the CARES Act funds, The Youth Center would have had to cut staff further, or reduce the hours they provide child care.

“We lost over $200,000 in registration fees that would have come in that we had to underwrite as a scholarship,” Lumme said. “The (CARES Act) grant keeps our doors open. It allows us to keep going.”

“We had to cut off all the expenses we could possibly cut off,” Lumme said, starting with office supplies. The Center stopped buying paper and held a donation drive for paper and other supplies for students to use to print out their homework.

“We buy a lot of books for our kids,” Lumme said. “Literacy is important for us.”

The Center also held a book drive so they can continue providing free books for the children. They also held shoe drives and took donations from parents cleaning out their house so that other children could benefit from the outgrown shoes.

With remote and hybrid learning, many of the kids at the Youth Center are behind on their projects, so the staff at the Youth Center are trying to keep the kids on task in school and help the kids avoid overwhelm.

“Having enough staff members is crucial for us. We didn’t have enough funding coming in. We were looking at anywhere we could apply (for funds) to help us survive,” The Youth Center Executive Director Lina Lumme said.

They separated their staff and kids into smaller teams. When anyone arrives at the Center, a staff member takes their temperature. They are using hand sanitizer by the gallon, Lumme said, and a large supply of sanitizing wipes. Every 30 minutes, staff members clean equipment such as computers, and anything the children may have touched.

So far, they have not had any cases of COVID-19 at the Youth Center.

“So we know we can provide the program safely and keep the kids safe while parents are working. That’s a big expense too,” she said.

Learn more about The Youth Center here.