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Congresswoman Chrissy Houlahan celebrates first responders at the West Chester Area Branch YMCA

  • Congresswoman Houlahan reading to a group of children

Originally Published in The Daily Local News

WEST CHESTER — September 11 is not only a day to remember and honor first responders in our communities, but also is a National Day of Service when all are encouraged to volunteer in their community. Congresswoman Chrissy Houlahan joined YMCA of Greater Brandywine President & CEO, Bertram L. Lawson II and educators at the West Chester Area Branch YMCA this week to honor local first responders and community helpers.

Modeling Service for Students

“As adults, we have very specific memories of September 11,” shares Victoria Gallagher, Director of Childcare, Early Learning and Montessori at the West Chester Area Branch YMCA. “As educators, we must determine an age-appropriate way to convey the importance of this National Day of Service to our students who range in age from six weeks to five years. And so, we organized a series of activities for our students, focused on teaching them what it means to be a community helper.”

Congresswoman Houlahan and her team joined YMCA students and staff in service on Monday, reading stories about community helpers, assembling goodie bags for local police officers and helping students create thank-you cards and banners for local fire fighters. The event ended with a fire safety demo from the Goshen Fire Company and a lunch in their honor.
“What an impactful day for our students,” comments Lawson. “Modeling is one of the most powerful teaching tools we have as educators and parents. We are honored that Congresswoman Houlahan chose to join us in service to help educate our students and demonstrate what it means to be a community helper.”

Expanding Access to Early Education

Education is a passion of both Lawson and Houlahan. Houlahan previously served as an educator with Teach for America and at Simon Gratz High School in North Philadelphia, a location of Mastery Charter Schools. Lawson previously served as the COO for Mastery Charter Schools, his parents are both Gratz alumni and his mother is a retired Head Start Teacher.

With more than 70 students enrolled, the Early Learning and Montessori classrooms at the West Chester Area Branch YMCA are full, with lengthy waitlists. The Y plans to open a third Montessori classroom that will serve an additional 20 students at this location. Yet, that’s not enough to serve all families on the waitlist.

“We’re working hard to ensure that all families have access to reliable and affordable education during their formative years,” says Lawson. “Thanks to our Financial Assistance program, we never turn away families due to an inability to pay. Yet there are still many families in our community who lack access to Early Childhood Education.”

Lawson advocated for the needs of working families during Congresswoman Houlahan’s visit this week.

Celebrating and Supporting First Responders

Students and families are not alone in needing support. The Goshen Fire Company, like most fire companies across the country, have seen a decrease in staff, volunteers and funding while the volume of calls and the cost of equipment continue to rise.

“Call volume has increased 63% in the past 20 years,” reports Deputy Chief of Fire, Grant Everhart. “Not only does our team respond to more calls each day, but we’ve also seen a shift in the types of calls that we receive. Over 80% of the calls received last year were EMS calls, compared with about 65% just 20 years ago.”

The increase in EMS calls is due in part to the mental health crisis and the needs of the aging population in our region.

“We need help,” comments firefighter, Dave Shainline. “There are many ways to get involved. EMS, Fire, administrative jobs – you name it. We provide the necessary training, and our volunteers work at their own pace.”

“Plus, it’s fun and rewarding,” injects firefighter, Dave Meadows. “Most of us full-timers started out as volunteers. We got hooked on it and decided to stick around for the past 30 years.”

The Goshen Fire Company welcomes volunteers of all abilities, starting at age 16 with no upper age limit. To support their life-saving efforts, consider volunteering or attending one of their local fundraisers.