Najifa Farhat

(Missoula Current) The Missoula Family YMCA held a groundbreaking ceremony for its new early childcare center on Thursday at the Russell Street campus.

The Phyllis Washington Early Child Care Center, named after the local philanthropist Phyllis J Washington, will be a 6,600-square-foot facility and will serve as the hub of early childhood activities for children and parents in Missoula.

The facility is one part of the YMCA’s $19.3 million “Here for Good” capital campaign.

“Some of the investment in our community is to invest in our youngest learners,” said Heather Foster, CEO of the Missoula Family YMCA. “This new childcare center is going to be a space where imaginations have sparked, the love of learning is created, where families come together, and children can learn and grow and thrive.”

Foster said the center will allow YMCA to double the number of children ages 0–5 that it serves. It currently accommodates 50-55 children. Additionally, the facility will also extend its services to school-aged children above the age of 7, as well as cater to the needs of mothers and care providers.

Some of the key facilities of the building will include dedicated space for breastfeeding, therapy, experimental learning facilities and a kitchen. The new building will replace the current learning center, which the Y intends to remodel into a multi-court "airnasium" and an all-abilities playground.

Saying that Montana is currently struggling with childcare, Rep. Mark Thane of Missoula and a former board member of the YMCA said the expanded facility will be transformative and will serve as an economic driver for Missoula.

“Right now, 27,000 parents are out of the workforce because of lack of available or affordable childcare and that’s significant,” Thane said.

The first phase of construction starts this month and is expected to open in the fall of 2024. The campaign has raised $14 million of its $19.3 million target. The rest of the fundraising is underway.

“Missoula is growing, and the YMCA is here to grow right along with it. We are committed to continuing to provide high-quality education and health and wellness programs for all,” said Jorge Watson, Missoula Family YMCA Board Chief Volunteer Officer.

According to the organizers, along with the Washington Foundation, hundreds of donors have participated in the effort, including Kathryn J. Veazey, Susan and Roy O’Connor, the Madrona Hill Foundation, Town Pump Charitable Foundation, Tom and Ann Boone, Montana Timber Products, Allegiance Benefit Plan Management, Randy and Theresa Cox, Providence St. Patrick Hospital and the Montana Child Care Innovation grant program.

Throughout construction, YMCA will continue providing services to the currently enrolled families.

YMCA Groundbreaking

YMCA breaks ground on its new early learning center in Missoula.