Holiday Spirit

Palo Alto Community Child Care Director Melissa Momand plays with students at the Downtown Children's Center in Palo Alto on Nov. 19. Photo by Olivia Treynor.

Posted December 4, 2020

Making child care work during a pandemic
New challenges, including financial, face programs serving the community's youngest

by Elena Kadvany

For Karna and Arne Nisewaner and their two children, Palo Alto Community Child Care has been a lifesaver.

Instead of her elementary-aged children feeling ignored and isolated at home and Nisewaner and her husband feeling endlessly torn between their jobs and managing their children's online learning, her son and daughter are around other children during the day while their parents can work uninterrupted.

Nisewaner said she's watched her children return to their former selves, making new friends at the nonprofit's program at Addison Elementary School and engaging more in online learning with the support of familiar staff whom they knew pre-pandemic.

"The most important thing is the mental (and) social well-being of my kids and the absolute improvement in disposition and mood that they experienced. They're interacting with other kids. They're running around outside. They're playing games," Nisewaner said. "That has had such a mood-stabilizing impact."

Palo Alto Community Child Care (PACCC) reopened in June after three months of pandemic-forced closure. The shutdown has in many ways upended how the nonprofit functions, both on the front end with children and on the back end operationally. The nonprofit is blowing through its reserves, had to close a site and is raising prices to keep its programs open for families who need in-person care, with no clear sense of when public health restrictions will allow for greater capacity and thus revenue.

"I think we need to be really, really concerned about the future of child care," Executive Director Lisa Rock said last month. "Child care is critical to the infrastructure of our cities because this is how parents go to work, and working with your kids underfoot is not a long-term solution."

Palo Alto Community Child Care received a $10,000 grant from the Palo Alto Weekly's Holiday Fund this year, which the nonprofit used to buy medical-grade air purifiers for its classrooms and administrative offices. PACCC also reallocated a Holiday Fund grant from last year that was originally supposed to fund a preschool garden project to purchase air purifiers instead. The purifiers accomplish a dual purpose: decreasing the risk of COVID-19 in reopened classrooms and cleaning the air when wildfires bring unhealthy levels of smoke to the Bay Area.

PACCC has spent more than $25,000 on medical grade air purifiers — without which Rock said the child care programs would have had to close during several days of poor air quality this fall.

"They were critical to our ability to operate safely this year," she said of the air purifiers.

PACCC is currently serving about 300 children — compared to the usual 900 across 19 sites — in stable cohorts of 12 with two staff members each. When the nonprofit first reopened this summer, Palo Alto Unified elementary schools were still closed, so PACCC staff became students' distance-learning guides, overseeing 12 children's different schedules, programs and internet needs.

While revenues decreased with fewer students enrolled, the nonprofit's costs went up to be able to staff smaller cohorts of children and to cover additional cleaning, personal protective equipment (PPE) and new health protocols, Rock said. PACCC had to raise prices as a result. Starting on Jan. 1, PACCC will charge families a new "COVID fee," $100 for school-age children and $300 for younger age groups. (Even pre-pandemic, the infant toddler programs were financially tight given the more costly, lower children-to-staff ratios the state requires for young children, Rock said.)

Children are now attending PACCC's programs for full days two to three days a week and half days two to three days a week based on when they're going to school in person. Students older than 2 years old must wear face coverings, as do staff, have their temperatures checked and wash their hands before entering the sites.

"When children return to school and child care, it will feel very different than it did when they left," PACCC's COVID-19 plan states. "There will be times when children forget the new 'rules' and there will be times when children feel distressed by social distancing, missing their parents or maybe they will just need a hug. In these moments we will respond with caring and kindness and make decisions in each moment that put the needs of the child front and center."

Parents must fill out daily health checks for their children, now a sign-in and -out requirement. Parents are no longer allowed to visit their children's classrooms — a major change from the nonprofit's longtime open-door policy, Rock said.

The nonprofit has lost about 20% of its staff, either because there wasn't enough work for them, they moved out of the area or they didn't feel comfortable returning to work in person, Rock said. To keep the cohorts stable, there's also no possibility for substitutes or vacations for staff.

"When we reopened, staff and kids and families were really excited, and I think our staff really recognized just how important the services are that they're providing. On the other hand, it's a hard environment for them to work in. You're very focused on cleaning protocols and daily intake protocols — taking every child's temperature and the litany of health and safety questions you go through before they can even walk through the door every day — and not being able to see a real light at the end of the tunnel," Rock said. "We've been trying to focus more on the emotional well-being of our staff, to help them continue to do this work because the families that need us really need us."

As PACCC continues to operate at a loss, the nonprofit's leadership is looking for other funding opportunities and ways to rebuild reserves to prepare for the next crisis, whatever it may be. Rock, meanwhile, is looking around at other local child care programs, some of which have not reopened and at least one of which closed permanently.

"Child care has always operated on thin margins. Even if you were set up to last for awhile, like we were, you're not going to last forever, and you might not even last a year," Rock said. "Whether you're a larger program like we are or smaller, you're in real jeopardy right now."

Make a donation
2022 Recipient Agency

49ers Academy$10,000

AbilityPath$10,000

Able Works$10,000

Ada's Cafe$25,000

Adolescent Counseling Services$7,500

Art in Action$10,000

Bay Area Friendship Circle$5,000

Beyond Barriers Athletic Foundation$5,000

Big Brothers Big Sisters
of the Bay Area
$10,000

Blossom Birth & Family$5,000

Canopy$5,000

CASA of San Mateo County$5,000

Children's Health Council$10,000

Christmas Bureau of Palo Alto$5,000

Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto$10,000

Counseling and Support Services for Youth - CASSY$15,000

DreamCatchers$15,000

East Palo Alto Academy Foundation$10,000

East Palo Alto Charter School$5,000

East Palo Alto Kids Foundation$15,000

East Palo Alto Tennis and Tutoring$15,000

East Palo Alto YMCA$10,000

Eastside College
Preparatory School
$7,500

EPACENTER$10,000

Family Connections$7,500

Fit Kids Foundation$5,000

Foundation for a
College Education
$10,000

Fresh Approach$10,000

Friends for Youth$5,000

Friends of the Palo Alto Junior Museum & Zoo$10,000

Heart and Home Collaborative$10,000

Hope Horizon East Palo Alto$7,500

Jasper Ridge Farm$5,000

Kara$15,000

Learning Home Volunteers$10,000

Live In Peace$10,000

Magical Bridge Foundation$10,000

Mannakin Theater & Dance$5,000

Marine Science Institute$5,000

Midpen Media Center$7,500

Music in the Schools Foundation$8,000

My New Red Shoes$5,000

New Voices for Youth$5,000

Pacific Art League of Palo Alto$12,000

Palo Alto Art Center Foundation$10,000

Palo Alto Community Child Care $30,000

Palo Alto Players$10,000

Peer Point$20,000

Peninsula Bridge$10,000

Peninsula College Fund$10,000

Peninsula Healthcare Connection$10,000

Peninsula Volunteers$15,000

Peninsula Youth Theatre$5,000

Pursuit of Excellence Scholarship Foundation$20,000

Ravenswood Classroom Partners$20,000

Ravenswood Education Foundation$10,000

Reading Partners
Silicon Valley
$10,000

ReadySetExcel$5,000

Rebuilding Together Peninsula$7,500

Resource Area for
Teaching (RAFT)
$5,000

Rich May Foundation$5,000

Rise Together Education$10,000

Ronald McDonald House$5,000

Rosalie Rendu Center$5,000

Sager Family Farm$5,000

Silicon Valley
Urban Debate League
$7,500

St. Elizabeth Seton School$10,000

TheatreWorks$5,000

UNAFF (United Nations Association Film Festival)$10,000

WeHOPE$15,000

WomenSV$7,500

Youth Community Service$25,000

Child Care Grants

All Five$10,000

Covenant Children's Center$10,000

Creative Montessori
Learning Center
$10,000

Grace Lutheran Preschool$10,000

Palo Alto Friends Nursery School$10,000

Parents Nursery School$10,000

* indicates amount withheld at donor's request

43 Anonymous135,210
Linda Selden700
Elliot Stein100
Virginia Pollard100
Judith Steiner150
Janice Sedriks100
Charles Katz200
Georgie Gleim1,000
Edward Shapiro250
Albert Russell250
Jean Doble*
Mark Chandler250
Eileen Brennan200
Alice Evarts500
Jill & Brian Bicknell300
Elgin & Elizabeth Lee500
Barbara Klausner250
Erwang Mao100
Leslie & Douglas Murphy-Chutorian5,000
Suzanne Garadis50
Martha Berding200
Merele McClure250
Susan Ashworth100
Annette Isaacson200
Wallace Whittier150
Judith Kleinberg50
Veronica Tincher150
Mary Ann Sing100
Monica Engel Williams200
Mary Dimit200
Megan Fogarty100
John Wilkes600
Carol Kersten200
Ellen Krasnow500
Jim Lobdell250
Jlovuolo- Bhushan25
Carolyn Williams200
Lenore Jones100
Bonnie Packer100
Rosalie Shepherd100
Karen Olson250
Richard Zuanich100
Janis Ulevich125
Lovinda Blohm20
Larry Hyde*
Vickie Martin100
Thomas Rindfleisch*
Eileen & Rick Brooks1,000
Connie Fasani100
Sara Hammond100
Graceann Johnson100
Irene Kane100
Jan Thompson & Roy Levin250
John Tang*
Ed & Linda De Meo500
Micki & Bob Cardelli*
Patti Yanklowitz150
John & Mary Schaefer100
Judy Kramer*
Penny & Greg Gallo500
Marc & Margaret Cohen300
Harriet Benson10,000
The Dong Family200
Elaine & Eric Hahn*
Stephanie Klein & Larry Baer*
Bill Reller *
Bruce & Jane Gee250
Arthur Keller500
Bruce & April Robinson*
Lawrence Yang & Jennifer Kuan10,000
Richard Johnsson5,000
Bruce & Mary Beth Train1,000
Julius Guccione100
Leo & Marlys Keoshian250
Sally O'Neil & Ken Bencala100
Carolyn Brennen*
Linda & Steve Boxer*
Diane Moore*
David & Betsy Fryberger*
Alicia Newman250
Karen & Steve Ross*
Charles & Barbara Stevens*
Wileta Burch30
Constance Crawford350
Fischgrund Family200
Amado Padilla250
Xiaofan Lin50
Neilson Buchanan500
Patrick Burt500
Marcia Katz200
Scott and Jan Kilner500
Andrea Smith100
Harry and Susan Hartzell100
Steven Feinberg10,000
Kenyon Family250
Ellmann Family 100
Richard Alexander1,000
Ann and Don Rothblatt500
Keith Clarke*
Roger Smith400
Roger Warnke300
Betsy & George Bechtel150
Tess & Eric Byler100
Barbara Harriman Spreng500
Bruce Campbell200
Phillip Hanawalt1,000
Michael Havern5,000
Sylvia Gartner100
Lisa Akselrad25
M D Savoie500
Judith Ousterhout150
Joan Jack100
Page & Ferrell Sanders100
Mahlon & Carol Hubenthal350
Tom & Patricia Sanders*
William Debord2,000
Robert Aulgur1,000
Jeanne & Leonard Ware*
Ellen & Tom Ehrlich250
Jan & Freddy Gabus250
Gwen Luce*
Barbara & Robert Simpson*
Priscilla & Tony Marzoni*
Dorothy Saxe*
Kay & Don Remsen*
Hal & Iris Korol*
Roy & Carol Blitzer*
Mindy & David Sitzer*
Marilyn Simbeck*
Bill Johnson & Terri Lobdell2,000
Jody Maxmin*
Angelo Family Foundation5,000
Barbara Klein*
Dorothy Deringer200
Katherine and Dorsey Bass200
Patrick Burt500
Ruby Zefo500
Carli Scott100
David Kalkbrenner*
Nancy & Joe Huber*
Richard Baumgartner & Elizabeth Salzer*
Debby Roth200
Cathy & Howard Kroymann250
Wendy Sinton*
Linda & Jerry Elkind500
Julie & Jon Jerome*
Allen Smith & Ann Burrell*
Anne & Charlie Williams150
Jerry & Bobbie Wagger*
Gerald & Joyce Barker200
Brigid Barton & Rob Robinson1,000
Ellen & Mike Turbow200
Jim & Valerie Stinger250
Sally & Craig Nordlund500
George & Betsy Young*
Vic Befera100
Edward Kanazawa300
Kingston Duffie & Liz Schwerer500
Susie Richardson & Hal Luft250
Susan Kemp250
John Antoun1,500
Debbie Mytels100
Donald Barr*
Donna Silverberg200
Susan & Doug Woodman200
Pat & Rich Douglas50
Leannah Hunt250
Ted & Ginny Chu*
Diana Diamond500
Diane Doolittle*
Barbara Riper*
Leif & Sharon Erickson500
Dena Hill500
Christine Prior100
Michael Kieschnick1,000
Nancy Rossen150
Sallie & Jay Whaley*
David McCalmont1,000
Lynn Newman100
Barbara Allen100
Richard Smallwood1,000
Becky & Ted Baer250
Marcie Brown100
Ken & Michele Dauber1,000
Hoda Epstein*
Catherine Dolton150
A C & Kathryn Johnston500
Martha Shirk1,100
Ron & Melanie Wilensky500
Ralph Wheeler300
Nancy & Jim Baer*
Anne & Don Vermeil*
Joan Norton*
Katherine Bryant*
Daniel & Janis Tuerk*
Tom & Nancy Fiene100
Beth & Peter Rosenthal*
Chris & Beth Martin*
Nancy Tuck2,000
Diane & David Feldman750
Christina Kenrick2,500
Penelope Barrett100
Steve and Noel Beitler150
Diane and Brandy Sikic450
Susan Levenberg180
Elizabeth Weingarten50
Joan Regalado100
Susan Kaye200
Barbara Kinsey400
Susan Thomas500
David Hoexter100
Susan Elgee500
Romola Georgia*
Katherine Jarvis250
Catherine Ballantyne*
Bonnie Berg500
Nancy Moss250
Mr. and Mrs. John J. McLaughlin100
Dr. Teresa L. Roberts1,000
Sally Hewlett Fund1,000
Peter B. Giles250
Kay Sabin*
Margo Sensenbrenner*
Gwen Barry*
Susan Yee*
Jean MacDonel200
The UMOC Charitable Fund250,000
Gavin & Tricia Christensen*
Jeremy Platt & Sandra Murphy300
Loni Freeman & Stephen Monismith*
Werner Graf2,000
Kim Harvey2,000
Feinstein Family1,000
Phil Fernandez & Daniel Sternbergh*
Virginia & Jim Fruchterman250
Karen Backer500
Christina Holt250
Peak-Filseth Charitable Fund500
Curt & Margaret Weil1,000
Wachtel Family1,000
Mary Lemmon25,000
Eric Keller & Janice Bohman500
Fran Codispoti250
Deborah Williams & Jean Luc Laminette1,000
Brennan Family500
Herbert Fischgrund100
Claire & Ed Lauing250
John & Martha McLaughlin200
Rob Colley & Kate Godfrey*
Glenda & Gordon Hughes*
In Memory Of

Kaye Kelley and Richard Van Dusen500
Don Kenyon50
Lew Silvers*
Larry Breed*
Er-Ying and YC Yen250
Jim and Dottie Mellberg250
E. Yanosh Alt20
Millie Rose Coldenhoff100
Edward & Elizabeth Buurma*
Leonard Ely500
Boyd Paulson Jr.*
Phillip Zschokke100
Mary Floyd*
Carol Berkowitz*
Pam Grady250
Lily & Phillip Gottheiner*
Kathy Morris*
August King*
Duncan Matteson1,000
David Mitchell*
Mason & Ryan*
Ian Halliday*
Ted Linden300
Florence K. Ho2,500
Mae & Al Kenrick500
Ray Bacchetti300
Marilyn D. Hansen200
Catherine Chow*
Emmett Lorey*
Betty Meltzer30
Ruth & Chet Johnson*
Nancy & Robert Lobdell*
Bob Kirkwood*
Gary Fazzino200
Don & Marie Snow*
Dr. Richard Greene200
Robert O. Jack500
Ruth C. Satterthwaite*
Jack Sutorius500
The Tinney Family250
Hannah & Helen Peterson50
Beverly Aarts*
Thomas W. & Louise L. Phinney*
Leo & Sylvia Breidenbach*
Tom Nolan Esq.100
Bob Merkevitch*
Bob Donald300
In Honor Of

Ada's Cafe*
Mandy Lowell*
Billee Werby100
Jill & Brian Bicknell*
Marilyn Sutorius500
Emma & Rich Pompetti500
As a Gift for

Dr. Ned Lund100
Street Cleaners100
Logan Marsh & Gabby Perez2,500
Businesses & Organizations

Packard Foundation25,000
Hewlett Foundation25,000
Palo Alto Business Park*
Perry Foundation 10,000
Arrillaga Foundation10,000
Alta Mesa Cemetery & Funeral Home2,500
Palo Alto Weekly Moonlight Run36,900
Sponsors of Moonlight Run:
  Stanford Health Care10,000
  Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati Foundation5,000
  Sutter Health/
Palo Alto Medical Foundation5,000
  Wealth Architects5,000
  Facebook5,000
  Deleon Realty5,000
  Kaiser Permanete5,000
  Stanford Federal Credit Union5,000
  Lakin Spears2,000
  Bank of the West1,500
Bleibler Properties LLC500
deLemos Properties LLC200
Johnson & Johnson Foundation1,000

Past Holiday Fund Grant Recipients

2018-2019 | 2017-2018 | 2016-2017 | 2015-2016 | 2014-2015 | 2013-2014 | 2012-2013 | 2011-2012 | 2010-2011 | 2009-2010 | 2008-2009 | 2007-2008 | 2006-2007 | 2005-2006 | 2004-2005 | 2003-2004 | 2002-2003 | 2001-2002 | 2000-2001 | 1999-2000