Gratitude and grace – these are the sentiments that I have held this past year. We entered the 2020-2021 year shell-shocked. Four months into the pandemic, BANANAS was in triage mode. As an organization, our focus was on stemming the crisis our families and child care professionals were experiencing. As essential workers, our staff had the double duty of continuing to show up to support our clients while managing their own personal challenges of navigating life in a pandemic. This pace, which was necessary yet taxing, continued into the new year.

First and foremost, I am grateful that we did not lose any team members to the virus and anyone infected recovered quickly. Our People & Operations team did a Herculean job keeping us safe in our workspace and providing all team members with the tools to effectively work virtually and in the office. I am grateful for the support of our funders and donors. Without you, our response to our families, child care professionals, and staff would not have been possible. Because of your generosity, BANANAS was able to provide food, diapers, hygiene kits, hotel vouchers, and cash stipends to families facing extreme hardships, in addition to our traditional programs and services.

Child care professionals continued to receive cash grants, PPE and cleaning supplies to mitigate some of the tremendous financial losses they sustained during the shutdown. In turn, they were able to remain open and provide care and early learning to the children of first responders, healthcare workers, and frontline workers like delivery drivers, supermarket clerks, and security personnel to name a few. Because you helped them, our economy did not shut down.

This year I have witnessed so many instances of grace. You, our supporters, have given generously, acknowledging the challenges of this time and entrusting us to deploy resources where they are needed. I was so humbled to receive a donation from, then VP-Elect, Kamala Harris recognizing the work and legacy of BANANAS. Our families and providers demonstrated patience and understanding while we stumbled through an ever-changing landscape of rules and regulations. Staff supported and helped each other as they navigated remote learning, working from home, and full-time caregiving.

We continue to be responsive to the evolving needs of our community. We hosted a joint press conference with Assemblymember Buffy Wicks as she introduced a bill to ensure low-income families have access to free diapers which will enable family-serving organizations statewide to address this dire need. Our Family Services department launched two new support groups for BIPOC families and our CARE families experiencing homelessness. And to make it easier for our digital-currency savvy supporters, we can now accept cryptocurrency for donations. Now that’s 21st century stuff!

One thing remains unchanged and that is our commitment to our mission and vision. We will always support our families and the people they entrust – early care educators – to ensure our youngest learners thrive. We will be open, responsive, and an advocate for issues to address policies that impact our families and their ability to thrive. We will strive to see our vision realized – that all children grow up to succeed in life and that they have all the support and tools they need to be eager and curious learners.

Thank you for partnering with us on this journey.

Kym Johnson
Executive Director

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