marian howseMarian Howse with her husband, Jeremy Pate, and their son, Orion. When Marian Howse found out she was approved to receive child-care assistance from UAB, she nearly cried with relief.

"It was an absolute godsend. We were under so much stress," explains Howse, who is a medical technologist at UAB and an essential worker in the COVID-19 outbreak. She and her husband had been racking their brains for a solution to their sudden lack of care for their 2-year-old son, Orion.

The daycare facility Orion usually attended—as well as others in the area—had closed as a result of the pandemic. That left Howse, who graduated from UAB with an M.S. in clinical laboratory sciences in 2011, and many other essential workers scrambling to find a safe place for their children to stay during work hours.

The impact on essential workers was brought to the attention of Lauren Leach, associate vice president of planning and population health for UAB Medicine. "Our first goal was to assess the need," Leach said. "We were hearing some concern from employees that they might not be able to come into work. Then we started focusing on different strategies to connect employees with child care. Our goal was to find places where children could spend a whole day if needed."

Leach learned that some local daycare facilities were opening up exclusively for essential health-care workers. Around that same time, UAB received a total of $75,000 from two donors—the Gratitude Foundation, which is in Birmingham, and another anonymous donor—to provide financial assistance for the care of children of essential workers, explains Rebecca Gordon, associate vice president of advancement at UAB.

"We were approached by several community funders with a dual goal of assisting front-line onsite health-care workers with child care, while also re-opening some facilities so that these employees could continue to come to work," she says. "We were fortunate to receive support, and we are very grateful for the vision of our donors in filling this need."

The donations provided weeks of monetary support for 41 families, Leach says.

"We heard that people were relieved, that it took a great deal of burden off of them to be able to secure child care during that time," Leach says.

Many of the children stayed at the UAB Child Development Center, including Orion. Now that facilities have re-opened, he's back at his original day-care spot. But Howse says the support from UAB solidified her longstanding relationship with the university.

"UAB has provided so much to me—from friends and family, grief counseling, great health insurance, and health care, education, and training paid maternity leave, and now child-care assistance during a worldwide crisis. I can't really measure my gratitude. I don't believe there are many employers who take such good care of their people."

Leach says helping essential workers was a no-brainer for the university. "For our front-line employees who came into work during a time of such uncertainty, for them to have that peace of mind that their children were taken care of and had a safe place to go, as a parent myself, I know that's a huge relief," she says. "I think it's the least we can do for them, and we are grateful to our donors for helping to make it happen."