For 3D’s Aftercare Inc. in Baldwin, the coronavirus pandemic has changed the way every day looks.
Dr. Zodelia Williams, the founder and executive director of 3D’s Aftercare, a nonprofit dedicated to caring for children after school while their parents work, opened the 3D’s Community Empowerment Center, on Seaman Avenue in Baldwin, two years ago, and it has since become a community hub. The pandemic has, however, changed its daily operations.
Since the peak of the crisis, Williams and her team have cared for children of essential workers. Special precautions have been put in place to ensure the safety of everyone who enters the building.
The center’s policy adjustments include prohibiting visitors and parents from entering, and requiring the maintenance team to deep-clean all surfaces and supplies each Sunday. Parents and staff members are also asked three questions recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about their possible exposure to the coronavirus, and the temperature and oxygen levels of all staff members, parents and children are taken at the doors.
Additionally, children who attend the after-school program change into a pair of Crocs and scrubs upon arrival to ensure cleanliness. 3D’s staff has also installed a UV blue light in the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system to keep the air clean. Masks or face shields are worn when the children are within six feet of one another, desk privacy shields were installed, children wash their hands for 20 to 30 seconds throughout the day, in addition to using hand sanitizer, and the meals provided, which used to be family-style, are now eaten individually.
Williams also extended the center’s hours, remaining open from 7 a.m. to midnight during the week, to ease the anxiety of first responders and essential workers.
“As a whole, I think she’s doing something that no other center is doing at all,” said Baldwin resident and essential worker Renee Bright, who typically brings her 8-year-old daughter, Sanaiah Richardson, to the center three times a week. “Many places shut down, and she stayed open just to help anybody who needed child care, or because the kids were going crazy because they were still stuck in the house.”
Bright, who manages South Ozone Post Office, and whose husband works as a police officer in the city, said, “We have to rely on Dr. Zoe a lot.”
“I have a lot of my own employees that cannot come to work because they don’t have day care,” Bright continued, “so any time Dr. Zoe was actually talking about the things she was trying to do to promote safety for the children, it becomes like, wow, she’s going above and beyond where other people are not even thinking in that sense.”
Besides arts and crafts, the children learn how to cook meals and make beds. Also, a financial literacy instructor teaches them lessons via Zoom on a projector screen, a yoga instructor teaches via Zoom and a dance teacher coaches via Zoom.
Using funds secured by State Assemblywoman Judy Griffin, a Democrat from Rockville Centre, Williams bought laptops and headphones for all of the children so they can complete their school work.
“We were able to give them everything they got in school,” she said. “Whatever they needed, we were there, hands-on, one-to-one, giving them what they needed, plus giving them love and security.”
Williams decided that the routine at 3D’s could be the one thing that gives the children a sense of normalcy.
“Because I tell them every day, it doesn’t matter what happens outside, we’re going to be here every day, no matter what,” she said. “This door will be open. There’ll be someone here for you every day. And we’re going to continue through the school year.”
Bright said that with the school year about to begin, it’s looking like her daughter will attend 3D’s for academic lessons rather than traditional school. Williams hired a teacher to instruct Common Core lessons.
Attending 3D’s, Bright said, “She still gets that school environment and gets taught the same way and in an environment that I know. While I’m at work, she’s still safe.”
Additionally, Assemblywoman Taylor Darling, a Democrat from Hempstead, helped Williams secure a grant to be able to purchase a vehicle recently to provide transportation for the children attending the day-care center.
“We needed transportation for the community center because we always know that access and making sure that people can actually arrive to the resources that we have — first we have to have the resources, then people have to get there — so transportation is always a necessity,” Darling said in a video posted to Facebook. “I couldn’t imagine a more deserving not-for-profit, a more deserving person.”