Temporary Childcare Gives Benefis Employees Boost During COVID-19 Precautions

Normally, Sherann Johnson would be behind the café counter at Medical Office Building 4 across the skybridge from Benefis South Tower.

But these are not normal times.

On Sunday night, Sherann’s boss Kathy Yarger, Manager of Volunteer Services, called with a surprising request. She needed help running a temporary childcare center. With the schools closed to slow COVID-19’s spread, Benefis employees needed a backup so they could continue to work.

“I knew it had to be something serious for her to call,” Sherann said. “I know my customers. I’m fond of them, and I take it seriously to care for the children of these doctors and nurses.”

Sherann’s wedding had to be delayed because of the outbreak, but that seems like a small thing when she weighs the importance of caring for these children and when she sees all that others are doing to keep the hospital going.

The temporary childcare center is staffed by reassigned employees, with nine on duty since it opened. The center runs 7 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., and Sherann arrives at 6:30 to accommodate nurses with early shifts. Benefis employees’ children ages 5-12 are welcomed.

McKinlee, 9, misses Greenfield School but made a lot of new friends at the temporary center. She’s played, done crafts, and had fun, she said. She’s also learned about COVID-19 but said she’s not worried. Her mom is a Benefis nurse who works in patient intake and “wears a shiny red coat.”

Abby, 10, would be at Morningside Elementary if not for the shutdown. She said she’s met nice people here. She misses school, too, but said she feels “OK” otherwise. Her mom is a Benefis pharmacist.

The girls planted freesia, sparaxis, and triteleia bulbs with Kooper, 10, whose mom also works at Benefis. He raved about the food at the childcare center.

Kathy said the food is better than she ever managed to cook for her family.

Sherann said the children have been open about how they feel amid the tumult of the outbreak. The center has enough staff that they can have one-on-one attention during emotional moments.