Interagency Efforts Open Childcare Space for Healthcare Employees, First Responders

An impromptu community effort by a dozen public and nonprofit partners is opening childcare spaces for children of essential healthcare workers and first responders. So far more than 575 spots have been opened for infants, toddlers and school-aged children at sites across the Sarasota County.

Spearheaded by Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation and Sarasota Memorial Health Care System (SMH) they identified the need when a survey of hospital employees reported more than 1,400 children needed somewhere to go while school campuses and other private daycare facilities are closed, due to the COVID-19 crisis.

“Without childcare, we don’t have healthcare workers,” says Carol Ann Kalish, Esq., Chief Legal Officer of SMH. “We’re trying to get ahead of the issue before essential employees are having to call out of work to prioritize the safety of their children.”

A task-force was created to identify opportunities to open safe and regulated childcare facilities. Included in the conversations were the Florida Department of Health, Sarasota County Emergency Management, Sarasota County Schools, Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office, The SKY Family YMCA, Early Learning Coalition of Sarasota County, The Florida Center for Early Childhood, Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota County, and other critical partners.

“Right now, each day is like a year in terms of responding to the COVID crisis,” says Teri A Hansen, President | CEO of Barancik Foundation. “We knew we had to act swiftly, and once again our nonprofit partners provided the leadership and flexibility to meet the community need. We’re serving those who serve us.”

All facilities comply with appropriate guidelines from the Center for Disease Control and state licensing agencies. Scholarships are available for families who need financial assistance.

The Florida Center Starfish Academy
Ages 3 to 5
Sarasota and North Port
Contact Susan Carney, 941.402.5394,

Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota County
Ages 6 to 12
Lee Wetherington Club, Sarasota
Registration open at or Contact Dawn Page, 941.366.3911,

Ages 2 to teen
Port Charlotte, Englewood and Venice
Registration online at

Early Learning Coalition of Sarasota County
Infant, toddlers and preschool children 0-5 years
Sites throughout the county
Contact for daily availability

The Early Learning Coalition is coordinating childcare subsidies through the Florida Office of Early Learning. Caregivers employed at companies listed on the Governor’s roster of essential business are eligible for scholarship care for children five and under.

To support these efforts and other COVID-19 response needs, please make a gift to Gulf Coast Community Foundation and Barancik Foundation’s COVID-19 Response Fund at