PULASKI COUNTY, Va. (WFXR)– After more than 40 years of serving the community, the Pulaski YMCA unveiled its new child care center following the program’s temporary suspension back in July.

During that time, Interim CEO Chris Ayers told WFXR News the decision was made after a 5-year-old drowned in December of 2021.

On top of the staff being drained from the COVID-19 Pandemic.

“When most YMCA’s in child care centers were closing down because of COVID, this Y — to its own detriment — stayed opened,” said Ayers.

He says it was hard to find staff, and there were days when they didn’t know whether they were going to be opened or closed.

So, forfeting the child program license was essential to re-opening in the future.

“The board did not want to do it. I mean they were committed to the kids. They were like what are these kids… what are these parents going to do? Where are they going to go?” said Ayers.

He adds the decision was difficult, but it was time to make changes to the entire facility — which is why they received their new child care program license today.

Ayers says they can begin working with the Virginia Department of Social Services and start to re-develop their partnership.

The goal is to bring back the family-oriented feeling and have 40 pre-schoolers feel like they have a new home in October.

The remodel comes with four different classrooms. Two of those rooms will be for infants up to the age of two. Another room will be for children two to three years old, and the last one will be for children three to four years of age.

“We have new stations, new art easels, new rugs, the kitchen has been re-done completely as well,” said Ayers.

He explains that on top of the remodeling, all staff had to undergo various types of training, like lead pre-school teacher Lindsey Martin.

“We were also trained specifically here for pediatric CPR to do the AED and everything,” said Martin.

She says in addition to recognizing child abuse and neglect, staff had to be trained to deliver any type of medications to the children and more.

Martin adds the YMCA wants parents to feel comfortable bringing their kids back because some parents were septical. She wants parents to know that, as a single mother raising two kids, the focus of the renovation was not just on the space, but it was also on the staff.

“It mostly honors teachers now,” said Martin.

She says she herself is excited to get back into the swing of things.

“I’m very very excited, there is just so much need here in this area. When we had to close for renovations on July 1st it was really hard to watch my kids go, and they struggled,” said Martin. “They are still struggling. So, it’s up to us to be able to open back up and offer those spots back.”

Overall the top priority is making sure the children are safe, and well taken care of.

Ayers says they will be safe because they have done the work needed to prove themselves.

“You have an experienced organization that has taken two steps back and said — you know — we need to start over, and we’ve done that,” said Ayers.

He adds community members can see more from the Pulaski YMCA, as they begin to take these renovations throughout the entire facility.

He says it will be the only brand new renovated facility in the New River Valley.

They will soon begin to take registrations for its first day on October 3rd.