Filling a need
Linking Families and Communities receives $750K child care grant from state
A lack of access to quality child care can be a barrier for some parents looking to enter the workforce, which can add to businesses having difficulties finding enough employees. That’s why Linking Families and Communities is working toward opening a new child care center in Fort Dodge that will create around 100 new child care spots in the county.
The project is called the Fifth Avenue South Corridor Child Care Project and Gov. Kim Reynolds announced on Tuesday that the project will receive nearly $750,000 in grant funding from the state.
“It was the best call on a Tuesday that I’ve ever gotten,” said Elizabeth Stanek, executive director of Linking Families and Communities.
The exact total of the grant is $746,292, and the project is set to open 103 new childcare slots in Fort Dodge.
Stanek said the future home of the new child care center is a “partnership on a building” with the local organization that currently owns the property. She said Linking Families and Communities is a nonprofit, so they approached the unnamed organization in November about possibly donating the building to the child care cause. The exact site of the future child care center isn’t being disclosed yet.
“We started with an architectural predesign, looking at how can we configure that building to meet the needs of child care,” Stanek said. “What’s the capacity of the building? And what’s that going to cost?”
She said the goal is to not only add additional quality child care spots that can accommodate 12-hour shifts, but to also pay the staff higher wages.
“Child care in Fort Dodge is a huge need,” Stanek said. “Lack of child care is a big barrier to employment. If parents can’t find child care or they can’t afford child care, they can’t go to work.”
This is the second project in recent months Linking Families and Communities has started that benefits the community’s young children. In August, the nonprofit opened the Fort Dodge Play and Learn Center on the second floor of the downtown Wells Fargo building, 822 Central Ave. The play center hosts play groups for younger children, featuring activity stations focusing on imagination, art, engineering, sensory play and movement. The child care center will be a separate project of Linking Families and Communities.
Linking Families and Communities is also providing some funding toward the project, as is Clay and Associates DDS, Stanek said. The child care center project still has a ways to go with funding, and Stanek said it’s open for other businesses and organizations to contribute. The total project is estimated to be $1.6 million, so with the grant from the state, they’re about halfway to their goal.
Stanek said she hopes to secure the rest of the funding needed for the project by the end of the year, so that the construction can get started and the child care center can be open by October 2024.
There are several ways local businesses can get involved in the creation of this new child care center, Stanek said. They can donate to the project to get the center up and running, or they can purchase child care spots to reserve for the business’s employees.
“We just really need our community to step up,” she said. “We’re doing this to help the community. We saw child care as a community need and are trying to do this to meet that need.”
Statewide, there were 23 projects that received a total of $26,595,716 from the Child Care Business Incentive Grants and are expected to add 1,786 childcare spots.
“Iowa businesses know that access to quality child care is a major factor in employees’ ability to work,” said Gov. Kim Reynolds. “These awards will support and incentivize employer investment in child care resources on site or through community partnerships and strengthen our efforts to provide high-quality child care throughout the state of Iowa.”