Kids Can Community Center has an organizational history in Omaha for over a century. Established in 1908 as Social Settlement Association of Omaha, the organization was rebranded to Kids Can Community Center in 2009 to better reflect their vision and programs. The focus on children and families was a common thread throughout the first century of the organization with their first school-based program in 1916, their first summer program in 1923, and their first preschool program in 1942. In their second century of service, they continue to value the belief that all children deserve an impactful enriching educational experience despite any socio-economic barrier families may encounter.
Kids Can has worked with The Olson Foundation to specifically overcome any obstacles created by COVID-19 in their community. After closing for only two weeks at the beginning of the pandemic, Kids Can was the first nonprofit childcare center to re-open and remain open for the duration. Despite classroom and safety restrictions, Kids Can still served over 1,000 children in their two core areas: Early Childhood Education and Out-of-School programs. They also offered a variety of community-based connections such as delivering and distributing thousands of cleaning supplies to families and supporting food security through partnerships with the Siembra Garden Project, Latino Center of the Midlands, the Big Garden, Mobile Grace Food Truck, No More Empty Pots and the Partnership for a Healthier America Food For All program.
Programs experienced operational changes as they worked through COVID-19 and its variants. At the beginning of the pandemic, they reconfigured every room in their center to maximize space and adapt services safely. They created a remote learning environment, implemented new full-day programming on the alternate days students weren’t at school, and created virtual content with corresponding take-home activities for those not able to attend in-person.
Kids Can then transitioned from pandemic relief to recovery and re-building. They were able to re-start traditional services such as transportation before and after school at their center and summer programs in North and South Omaha with only a few limitations. Kids Can focused on a safe environment for a student’s social and emotional well-being during this time of pandemic response and recovery. They continued to prioritize assistance to their families with parents working essential positions and also implemented a new initiative focused on afterschool tutoring to deter academic achievement gaps created by COVID-related school disruptions.