Among the many challenges the coronavirus (COVID-19) has created is finding acceptable childcare.
The employers of working parents feel that pressure, too. Just ask Karen Griffo, president/CEO of $31 million asset Roswell (N.M.) Community Federal Credit Union.
Griffo was going to lose three employees in the space of two weeks due to childcare issues. Plus, New Mexico schools were slated to open in early August, possibly making the situation even worse.
With a staff of nine, every employee was vital to credit unions operations.
“It didn't take long to realize that if I didn't do something soon, my members were going to start paying a cost because I was losing some of my best-trained employees,” says Griffo. “But quite honestly, I would just be sad to lose them.”
Griffo came up with the idea of converting a 20- by 50-foot building the credit union owns into a day care learning center.
“It’s literally in our back parking lot,” Griffo says. “You take 20 steps and you’re there.”
The building is primarily used for training, manager meetings, and hosting regional credit union gatherings. But that use has grinded to a halt during the pandemic.
“We put our heads together and figured out a way to make it happen,” Griffo says.
Employees were instrumental in making the arrangement work. They take their lunch breaks to oversee the center, which they call Credit Union School, between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m., when a high school student comes in to take over.
The center also provides curriculum for children, including art and science.
“Some of the older kids pitch in to teach the younger kids,” says Griffo, who teaches cursive writing (“They don’t teach that in school anymore,” she says).
Currently the facility serves six staff members with 11 children ranging in age from one to 12 years. Employees pay $27 a week to support the center.
Employees were visibly moved by Griffo’s willingness and ability to find a solution. One employee cried when Griffo told her about it.
“These families were trying to figure out how they were going to manage the loss of income,” she says.
Griffo acknowledges that creating a day care facility on the fly is a heavy lift for a small credit union, but she’s happy to keep her staff intact.
She added that the children are monitored daily for COVID-19.
“I’m proud of how we’ve performed during COVID,” she says. “We worked in teams to keep the credit union from shutting down, and our board voted to keep all employees at their full pay. We’ve all banded together to get through this.”