As Petaluma Heath Center employees, some of whom have lost their own homes, work diligently to care for those impacted by devastating Sonoma County fires, a Petaluma nonprofit is offering free child care services for the center’s staff.
The North Bay Children’s Center Thursday opened the doors of its facilities at Valley Vista Elementary School and Mary Collins School at Cherry Valley to provide free care for children of health care workers at the Petaluma and Rohnert Park health centers, according to Executive Director Susan Gilmore.
“It’s really important that we’re taking care of our youngest children and meeting their needs during this crisis that’s impacting their families and their communities,” she said. “It’s a way that the North Bay Children’s center can do what we do best and work with our community partners to solve a problem that was preventing these health care workers from being able to assist.”
The center, which is usually plans its closures in concert with the Petaluma City Schools district, will provide childcare for health care provider’s children from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. until school resumes district-wide, Gilmore said.
It has the capacity to open a third location at McDowell Elementary School if the need arises, though Petaluma school campuses could reopen as soon as Tuesday, she said.
Thursday afternoon, about 30 children, from pre-schoolers to age 12, were at the center, Gilmore said. The Petaluma Health Center was covering the cost of care.
Petaluma Health Center’s Director of Business Development and Partnerships Kelly Bass Seibel, praised the partnership. The center at 1179 North McDowell Blvd. is open to treat evacuees, and many of center’s staff are at shelters, she said.
“We have employees who wanted to come to work and wanted to see patients and continue with our mission, but they couldn’t leave their kids at home and regular child care was closed,” she said.
While some Petaluma Health Center’s employees were impacted by the fire, the exact number isn’t clear, Seibel said, adding that childcare is a relief for many.
“They’re getting lots of love while their parents are at work providing care to the community,” she said.
The rest of the North Bay Children’s Sonoma County sites are in areas impacted by fires, and about 32 percent of its 90-person staff had been evacuated, with one teacher who lost a home, Gilmore said.
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