YWCA Early Childhood Learning Center - Cara

United Way support makes all the difference to YWCA child care. (Canton Repository. Sunday, October 9, 2016)

Cara Gassman, 24, said her four boys have improved academically, behaviorally since attending the Early Head Start and preschool.Cara Gassman said her kids might not be potty trained if not for the YWCA downtown.

She enrolled them in YWCA early child programs about three years ago and found a much-needed support system."They've been there through the good times and the bad times," Gassman said. "I don't think I would be able to survive without them."

Gassman, 24, said her four boys, between the ages of 9 months and 5 years, have improved academically and behaviorally since attending the Early Head Start and preschool. Her oldest boy has since started kindergarten at Heritage Christian School. "They really got him prepared for that school," Gassman said. She was a single mother when she began dropping off her children at the YWCA before work, but Gassman now has help from the father of her two youngest boys.Throughout the years, she said, YWCA staff have been patient and caring. They helped guide her as a new parent as she discovered children learn at their own pace. "I've had trouble with behavioral problems, trouble walking, talking, and they've helped them along the way," Gassman said.

In addition to YWCA programs, Gassman said, United Way resources such as the 2-1-1 assistance phone line have been a blessing. "United Way is always there when I need them for information," Gassman said. "I'm just so thankful for that because without that resource, I don't even know where I'd be today."

The YWCA's Early Childhood Learning Center, which serves children from 6 weeks to 11 years of age, receives $250,000 a year from the United Way. YWCA CEO Cathy Mick-Jennings said the money allows the nonprofit to provide quality teachers and programs to more than 200 kids a year. The United Way's support helps maintain the YWCA childcare's five-star quality rating from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, Mick-Jennings said. Children of the YWCA's shelter residents also are enrolled as long as a parent is living there, which provides a sense of security. "Without United Way, we couldn't do this," she said.

The YWCA also accepts subsidized care from the Department of Job and Family Services. To enroll or for more information, call the YWCA at 330-453-7644.