Community , Community Projects
Beyond the Mission Statement: Wyoming Valley Catholic Youth Center
Posted: April 18, 2023
In our effort to create NEPA’s most comprehensive nonprofit directory, we came across hundreds of amazing organizations. Naturally, we wanted to share their inspiring stories.
In this series, we aim to highlight the hard-working organizations, the good people, the selfless volunteers, the helpers, the healers, the listeners, the comforters and all the great work they do. We hope that, through these stories, you too will be inspired to lend your time, your hands and your hearts. Follow along as we take a look beyond the mission statement.
A Positive Force For Good
For 75 years, the Catholic Youth Center, or CYC, has been an invaluable part of the lives of countless youth throughout the Wyoming Valley. Their strong presence in the community provides an impactful support system in caring, nurturing and teaching children and providing a safe environment for them to be themselves, unapologetically.
In its early years, the CYC was once the hub for after-school sports, recreational lessons, concerts, summer camps and just an all-around welcoming place for kids to be kids. Today, the center remains a vital resource in our community, particularly in providing quality child care for working families.
Going Above and Beyond
Helping children is at the forefront of their mission.
The mission of the nonprofit, located in Wilkes-Barre, is the same today as it was in 1948. To provide programming and services to the youth in our communities and help them grow socially, physically and educationally.
That spirit of helping those in need is at the heart of the Catholic church’s mission and the work of the CYC as an affiliate of the Diocese of Scranton. They provide not only a recreational space for children but a loving, nurturing daycare and before and after care services.
Currently, almost 250 children are enrolled in the CYC childcare program. They care for children ages 6 weeks through 13 years. A before and after school program is available with transportation to and from schools in the Hanover Area, Wilkes-Barre Area and Wyoming Valley West School Districts.
On a daily basis, approximately 200 children spend all or part of their day at the center, which is an accredited Keystone STARS education program facility. The STARS system of early-childhood intervention works to improve, support and recognize the continuous quality improvement efforts of early learners in Pennsylvania.
Since 1999, the CYC continues to be the only center in Luzerne County that offers 24-hour-a-day child care. The facility opens at 4:30 a.m. Monday with continuous care through Saturday morning at 7 a.m. Typically, ten hours is a daily maximum for childcare, but 12 hours is a possibility.
“With the flexibility in shifts that we offer, basically, any parent can come in and create any schedule they want with us,” says Mark Soprano, Executive Director for the CYC. “Sometimes it changes daily. Sometimes it changes weekly. But having that flexibly allows the parent to accept almost any job they can get.”
Providing Support and Stability
Every child is welcome at the CYC.
As a child who grew up going to the CYC, Mark knows just how important it is for the community, especially today.
Five years ago, the CYC partnered with Luzerne County Mental Health and Development Services to create a mental health Drop-In program. It provides children ages 13 -19 in the mental health system with socialization, recreation, education and advocacy opportunities with their peers.
But the Drop-In does more than give teens a chance to combat isolation through socializing. It also gets them volunteering in the community and teaches life skills like opening a bank account, cooking, doing laundry and riding the bus.
“In recent years, (the mental health Drop-In) is a population where we are really making a difference with so many children,” Soprano emphasizes.
Just as the Drop-In program provides a space for children who sometimes don’t fit in other places socially or recreationally, the childcare program provides stability, support and care for all children. It particularly benefits those who come from low-income families, single-parent homes or those being raised by grandparents and neurodivergent children who need flexible instruction and care.
The CYC never turns away anyone, including those who can’t pay, or those who haven’t found the right fit at other facilities. Take, for example, a young school-aged boy who, Mark says, is “brilliant.” He was terminated from every other facility he attended in Luzerne County. The CYC was the last chance so the boy’s mother could continue to work. On the autism spectrum, the young boy didn’t feel he fit in anywhere until they found the CYC. Now, according to Soprano, he is doing wonderfully at his new home away from home.
“That’s a prime example how we are different than every other daycare center,” says Mark.
“We adjusted our program and our curriculum to meet his needs,” emphasized Ranee Henderson, Childcare Director for the CYC. “You know, a lot of facilities are saying, this is our curriculum. This is our program. The child has to meet our needs. But we have to meet the needs of the child.”
Fun at the CYC
A outlet where kids can be kids in a safe environment.
The CYC is still a hub for fun and socialization, as was the vision of Bishop William Hafey in the 1940s. There are two large gymnasiums, a state-of-the-art aquatics center, a playground and a summer camp program.
Basketball leagues are run in the fall and spring through Wyoming Valley Clutch, an ABA franchise team and current 2023 Mid-Atlantic Regional Champions.
The aquatics center features the largest complex in the area with an eight-lane pool and spectator seating for over 500. Swim lessons are offered on Saturday mornings during the school year and on weeknights during the summer. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the swim team at the CYC has been on hold, but this summer they’ll get back in the pool and be ready to compete this fall.
Each summer, 250 enthusiastic children converge on the CYC daily for a summer of fun. The full-day summer camp program runs for children who have completed kindergarten through age 13. There are arts and crafts, multi-cultural projects, themed days and field trips. There’s even a Green program – where children learn to grow and cultivate their own food – educational programming, a summer reading program and tons of gym and pool time.
“Years ago, the summer camp was a program where parents would send their kids because they wanted something for them to do in the summer. Now, it’s a necessity because parents need to work.”
Nonprofits need community support to survive and thrive.
By supporting CYC events and spreading the word about activities and fundraising, the community can directly contribute to keeping the doors open for children in the Wyoming Valley now and in the future.
“Our program is typically operating at near capacity and we don’t advertise. We are successful because we offer a quality product and the people that come here help spread the word. So, the community helping spread the word about CYC is very important for us.”
This year, the Wyoming Valley Catholic Youth Center will celebrate its “Diamond Jubilee” with a Giving Tree style fundraiser. But, instead of leaves, the plaques will be basketballs. Their goal is to sell 1,000 wooden basketball plaques, engraved with each donor’s name, which will hang in the gymnasium.
In June, they’ll be participating in NEPA Gives, a 24-hour online giving event. You can donate money with the opportunity for the CYC to receive bonus funds matched by NEPA Gives sponsors. And, as a fun incentive, this year you can sponsor a swimmer during the NEPA Gives event. The CYC has a group of swimmers getting in the pool to swim one mile every hour for 24-hours to raise funds.
Follow them online to learn more about how you can get involved supporting the CYC through fundraising.
Connect With Wyoming Valley Catholic Youth Center
Visit the Wyoming Valley Catholic Youth Center’s website to learn more about their childcare offerings, mental health programs, recreational activities and for more on how you can support their fundraising campaigns.
Learning & Playing at the CYC