One of the most common problems in the fallout from Hurricane Ida for those who live and work in St. Charles Parish has been what to do for childcare during the day, with schools closed and many daycare centers closed due to the storm fallout.
For the parish’s first responders, like police, their duties to serve a community that now needed them as much as ever allowed for little time to find a solution. So, St. Charles Parish Chief Deputy Rodney Madere and a few fellow staff members proposed one, and it’s already made a difference.
The Sheriff’s Office recently opened a temporary daycare center for its employees to allow for a return to work. The center opened at the police department’s training facility.
“We had all of our deputies at work, and a lot of our support staff wishing to return immediately after the storm,” said Cpl. James Grimaldi, Sheriff’s Office spokesman. “One of the problems was we had no daycares open in the parish, many families and friends still evacuated, and the few people that were home did not have electricity and had damaged homes not suitable for child care.”
By opening a temporary child care at work, it allowed everyone to be able to return to work. It also helped ease employees’ minds that their child/children were safe and well taken care of, Grimaldi said. He noted many Sheriff’s deputies were working 16-hours or more a day, and the center provided a measure of stress relief – also supported by the fact that with their children close by, they were able to visit with them periodically during a shift.
The center averaged between 30 to 36 children a day who were looked after by staff members who volunteered to be reassigned to the daycare after the storm. The selected employees working in the daycare had some type of experience ranging from either prior employment in childcare, or were parents or grandparents themselves with experience caring for children.
The daycare was open for several weeks and was able to close by last week’s end, with enough services restored in the parish for a return to normal operations.
The ultimate purpose the daycare provided was not just to allow for a temporary care area, but to help speed the total recovery effort for the Sheriff’s Office employees – and the parish as a whole as well, as police were also able to turn attention toward distribution of items to aid in the recovery of residents in need.
“After the storm, we were receiving shipments of commodities, food, clothing, cleaning supplies, and just about everything you could imagine,” Grimaldi said. “These items were being donated from across the country. Having our staff back allowed us to efficiently sort, organize, and package these items to be distributed to citizens throughout our parish.”
Donations also helped kickstart the daycare itself.
“When we started it, we didn’t have much,” Grimaldi said. “We reached out for donations and we had everything from toys, clothes, baby supplies, tables, chairs, arts and crafts supplies … you name it.”
It was one of a number of services set up at police headquarters for similar purposes, ranging from laundry services available on site and hot lunch and dinner provided by the Sheriff’s Office or organizations who donated for the purpose.
“We have had countless organizations that came in and offered to tarp deputies’ roofs, gut damaged homes, or provide services required to help recover,” Grimaldi said. “This was immeasurable due to most of our employees working 16-hour days, seven days a week.
“All and all, the endless support from our citizens, our brother law enforcement agencies, our church groups, and other various organization has been overwhelming and proved to be extremely helpful in the recovery and return to normal operations. We have worked our hardest and will continue providing the best services possible to aid recovery and protect the citizens of St. Charles Parish.”