The YWCA of Asheville’s Empowerment Childcare Program is Building a Stronger Community

March 6, 2024

To help address the pressing issue of accessible and affordable childcare the region, the YWCA of Asheville received a $10,000 grant from the Asheville Chamber, part of the Chamber’s 125th Anniversary Celebration for its Empowerment Childcare (ECC) program. 

The ECC program was born from the understanding that the lack of available, affordable childcare is a significant barrier to women’s economic success and community vitality. Diana Sierra, CEO of the YWCA, expresses her gratitude for the acknowledgment.

“First and foremost, I want just to say thank you to the Chamber and for everybody that voted for us to be selected for that grant,” says Sierra. “I personally was super humbled and excited to receive that grant and that acknowledgment of our hard work.”

The ECC program, a one-of-a-kind initiative in Western North Carolina, offers drop-in childcare that is adaptable, cost-effective, and of superior quality. Unlike conventional childcare programs, ECC is designed to assist parents in reaching their economic, educational, or other advancement objectives.

“This program provides free or very low-cost childcare for families to be able to do those things in order to advance themselves economically,” says Sierra. “What makes this program different and unique from our licensed childcare program and other more traditional childcare programs, is while we do create a safe and nurturing environment for children where they can learn and grow and thrive, really the outcomes that we track are when parents achieved their economic advancement goals.”

The ECC program sets ambitious goals for the families it serves, focusing on empowering parents to achieve economic, educational, or other advancement goals. In 2022, ECC provided services to 217 families, offering over 14,034 hours of care and 1,197 healthy meals to 295+ children. The program’s success is measured not only by the developmental milestones of the children but also by the economic achievements of the parents.

The $10,000 grant from the Asheville Chamber is a crucial investment in ECC’s success. It supports teacher salaries, ensuring the program is staffed with qualified and capable employees. In a region where childcare workers are paid an average of $13/hr, well below the living wage, this grant contributes to YWCA’s commitment to raising the minimum wage for all childcare staff to $15.75/hr. 

“With the resources we’ve been able to get through this grant, we’ve been able to help support, again, paying our staff competitive wages, providing professional development opportunities,” Sierra says. “It helps support not just general operating expenses but investing in our staff.”

The YWCA’s Empowerment Childcare Program is not just a childcare service; it’s a catalyst for positive change, empowering families to overcome obstacles and thrive. Asheville’s journey towards a more inclusive and supportive community takes a significant step forward with the YWCA’s ECC program, fueled in small part by the Asheville Chamber. This grant not only aids in addressing the immediate challenges but also contributes to building a foundation for stronger families and a more vibrant community.