published Sunday, December 29th, 2013

YMCA of Greater Chattanooga offers preschool services

THE NEEDIEST CASES FUND

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The Chattanooga Times Free Press Neediest Cases Fund enters its 100th year helping those in need with donations from readers who generously give to a unique resource available year round. Contributions, which are acknowledged in the newspaper, will be accepted through Dec. 31.

NEED HELP?

United Way of Greater Chattanooga will work with partner agencies in the area to help people with emergency needs as well as provide services, if possible, to help them become self-sufficient and stable. Call 423-752-0353 if you or someone you know could benefit from the Neediest Cases Fund.

There are several things Carla Myers doesn't want the public to know about her little daughter, and most parents would probably agree.

But over the phone from the family's Christmas travels Friday, Myers trod a line between preserving her little girl's identity and bragging on folks who have enriched the family's lives.

Myers' 5-year-old daughter has special needs. The child's mom and dad have jobs that prevent them from staying home during the day to care for her.

Four years ago, when it came time to figure out where the infant, then 1, would attend day care, the Myerses took to the phone book and just started calling around.

What they found was rejection around several turns -- some day care centers didn't have space. Some said they could not commit to watching a special-needs child.

Then Carla Myers came across a reference to child care at the Downtown Family YMCA, a place mostly known for swimming lessons and workout centers.

"A lot of people think of the Y as 'Oh, that's where you go to lose weight,'" said Kelley Nave, United Way of Greater Chattanooga's public information director. "Well, yes, that's one of the services they offer."

But there's more. Much more.

YMCA of Greater Chattanooga is one of United Way of Greater Chattanooga's community partners.

This year, United Way hopes to broaden financial and social support to its funded and partner agencies with money raised by the Chattanooga Times Free Press Neediest Cases Fund. Beginning annually at Thanksgiving, the Times Free Press asks readers to donate money to the Neediest Cases Fund.

Hundreds of individual donors -- many of them repeating every year -- donate thousands of dollars to help local people in need.

Among them are folks whose special-needs children are welcomed with arms and hearts wide open.

"The Y is really -- it's a Christian organization, and it's a mission as opposed to a for-profit school," said Delane Ogden, preschool director at the Downtown Family YMCA.

"We try to accommodate as much as we possibly can. If it's anything we can do, we go all out to do that," said Ogden.

She said training provided by United Way has "helped to educate our staff."

Carla Myers remembers seeing that experience on the first days she left her little daughter with the Y.

"That first week, the teachers -- from the head down, they were just so excited to tell us about her day and what they did," Myers said.

And some of the issues the Myerses specifically worried about -- like their daughter's small size -- weren't problems for the Y staff.

Instead of taking extra, obvious steps to cater to Myers' daughter and making her stand out in class, the Y staff immediately integrated the little girl right into the mix.

That was one of the perks that Myers said she picked up on and appreciates about the facility.

After four years, Myers said she hasn't worried a single day about the care her daughter is receiving. She's thankful she followed that gut feeling that said the Y was right.

"I just knew," she said. "There was no doubt in my mind."

Maybe it was just that motherly intuition.

"You have to depend on that," Myers said.

Contact staff writer Alex Green at 423-757-6731 or agreen@timesfreepress.com.

about Alex Green...

Alex Green joined the Times Free Press staff full-time in January 2014 after completing the paper's six-month, general assignment reporter internship. Alex grew up in Dayton, Tenn., which is also where he studied journalism at Bryan College. He graduated from Rhea County High School in 2008. During college, Alex covered the city of Graysville and the town of Spring City for The Herald-News. As editor-in-chief of Bryan College's student news group, Triangle, Alex reported on ...

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