Early childhood programs are an ongoing issue for Nebraskan families. Occasionally misunderstood as “a mommy issue,” our Early Childhood team is committed to redefining early childcare and programming as not a mother’s concern, but a larger economic one.
The numbers don’t lie. According to research from the First Five Years Fund, early childhood programs are linked to long-term financial gains. Still, struggles arise to find and create affordable, high-quality childcare programs. Space poses as a problem, as does cost-effectiveness. So, what do we do?
As Marti Beard, Associate Vice President of Early Childhood Programs said at Thriving Children 2019, “Connection, connection, connection.”
Although creating early childhood programs is hard, our communities work harder. Through the relationships that Communities for Kids, one of our Early Childhood initiatives fosters, our leaders continue to work tirelessly on behalf of Nebraska’s early childcare and educational programs.
Meanwhile, as Communities for Kids connects locations to viable early childcare resources, so do the communities themselves. We’re energized because real towns, with a real need for early childhood education, are having success creating excellent programs across Nebraska. Thanks to these recent efforts, a star is born in Lexington, Nebraska: Learning Adventures Child Care Center that is, thanks to the community and its Community for Kids leaders.
It all began during the summer of 2019 when a working group from First United Methodist Church in Lexington began their process of considering the potential use of their facility to meet an identified childcare crisis and need in the community. Following a church council meeting, an article was written for the local newspaper.
Communities for Kids engagement lead Casey Madsen, who also owns and directs Learning Adventures Child Care Center in Gothenburg, Nebraska, saw this article in the Lexington Clipper Herald concerning the need for childcare in Lexington. Shortly thereafter, Casey was invited to attend a Child Care Planning meeting in Lexington to discuss how the community could work together to create a solution.
Casey said her choice to collaborate on this early childhood effort was a no-brainer but her challenge to find a space was real.
“It was an easy decision for me to open a new center in Lexington and help address the need for childcare, but where?” she said.
Casey considered some existing buildings for possible purchase but decided that buying a property wasn’t a financially feasible option. She then met Anne Gahn, the Pastor at the First United Methodist Church and fellow Communities for Kids Engagement Lead, at a planning meeting in Lexington, where they bonded over the opportunity to create a quality childcare facility.
“We were blessed with an instant connection” said Casey. “We both wanted to help this community and have a passion for quality childcare.”
After Pastor Anne and Casey walked through the church’s available space, their connection sparked an idea: what would it look like for the church to partner with Casey to serve the community with a childcare center? From there, Pastor Anne and Casey continued to gain momentum and honored their vision of being the host site for the new location of Learning Adventures Child Care Center!
“After meeting with the church council, it became an obvious move for both of us. We were going to partner together to open a childcare facility!” said Casey.
The discovery of this potential space inspired other Lexington community members and businesses to chip in. Casey said that the church has been, in so many words, a Godsend.
“The church has been such a blessing in so many aspects of this adventure,” she said. “Not only are they willing to dedicate the use of the space, but they are providing new flooring, paint, and shelving/cubbies.”
Casey went on to say that the church was also working with her to come up with a security system to ensure the children’s safety.
“They’ve opened their arms to us in so many ways and have made this a fun and exciting partnership,” she said regarding the church’s support.
Aside from providing the building updates, Pastor Anne said this new adventure has given life to the congregation.
“It has spurred a spirit of generosity in the church and community, who are partnering with us to make this childcare center a reality,” she said.
Pastor Anne went on to say that local businesses are chipping in to provide labor and materials at a reduced cost. “We even acquired a major partner, Designer Woodcraft, that is donating custom cabinetry, shelving, and cubbies!” she said.
Pastor Anne has echoed Casey’s enthusiasm, saying, “Our existing Shining Star Preschool program came into being at a time when preschool was desperately needed in Lexington. Today, we continue to provide an amazing learning through a play, faith-based environment for preschoolers! We are so excited to be continuing our legacy of supporting children and families with high-quality early learning environments!”
Learning Adventures Child Care Center plans to open its doors to the Lexington community in March 2020.
This is a wonderful demonstration of a partnership that emerged from the very first Lexington Communities for Kids meetings! This story serves as a motivator to all those who identify unused space that can be turned into a quality early care facility.
So, tell us: where are your potential early childcare facilities? That new partner could be your community – and the literal person next door.
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