Meet Judy, the YMCA Bus that Brings Food and Essentials to Underserved Communities in Pierce and Kitsap Counties.
Born out of a need to reach those most vulnerable during the pandemic, Judy was the Y's way of responding to our community's need during COVID-19 and beyond.
In March 2020, schools were closed for the initial onset of COVID-19 and the YMCA’s before and after school programs became unable to reach the at-risk youth we serve. Through spring, we found ways to communicate with students virtually, and did everything we could to stay in contact. By summer, continued lockdown mandates meant that no one was permitted on school property. In order to help local kids and families during this incredibly difficult time, we had to get creative.
When Amber Mosley joined the Center for Community Impact in August of 2020 as a senior program director, she took it upon herself to rehabilitate one of our buses, affectionately named Judy, as a YMCA mobile outreach center. Her concept was to bring basic needs and enrichment activities to the young people who need them by meeting them where they are.
We brought meals, snacks, activities, and so much more.
Amber and the YMCA team worked with school principals to map out underserved apartment complexes in Tacoma and Lakewood where they saw the greatest need for assistance. As Y on the Fly evolved, the program partnered with YMCA Camp Seymour’s School Meals Program and gave away snacks and meals. The Y was also able to give out school supplies and hosted games and activities throughout the summer.
Our team was intentional in the decision to visit communities directly, as opposed to asking them to come to us at a park or a parking lot. Transportation is a barrier for many people in underserved communities. Most food banks in our area require folks to be able to travel to them in order to get supplies home to their families, and for many, bringing large boxes of food on public transportation is challenging or even impossible.
Judy is funded by grants and donations. Learn more about giving to the Y's Center for Community Impact and help us stay on the road!
For the biggest impact, Y on the Fly asked families to tell us what they need by taking orders directly from parents and caregivers.
After receiving permission from property owners, the Y on the Fly team set up tables full of activities for different ages, offering rotating options each week. We were able to distribute resources as well as take orders for specific items our community members in need specified. Each child was given a bag of food, a snack, and some shelf-stable pantry items to bring home. Within each bag was a flyer to inform parents that if they needed anything, we were there to help. We were able to purchase and provide school clothes, toiletries, and personal items that parents needed our assistance with that summer and fall.
Y on the Fly was born from a time of great adversity for people, and our organization was quick to step in and support our communities in any way we could. Although we could not open our doors, Judy’s were wide open, offering an extended hand to our most vulnerable populations. Judy continues to return to the Lakewood and Tacoma areas each Summer, bringing with her a team of Y staff that want nothing more than to serve their communities and bring resources and experiences to kids.