In 2015, when Boone County, Nebraska was considering plans to address their childcare shortage, Jay Wolf, and other Boone County Foundation Fund (BCFF) core team members, said, “We know we have a childcare shortage; we need solutions, but we’re not interested in building a center.”
The reasoning was sound. Given what the team knew, building a childcare center from scratch would not be economically feasible.
Five years later, the team broke ground for Boone Beginnings, their early care center.
So, how did this happen?
BCFF and the Economic Development Corporations in Boone County were among the core groups that spearheaded this effort, along with the rest of the community.
Let’s backtrack for a minute. As Nebraska Children and Families Foundation fully believes everyone in Nebraska, big and small, can thrive, we need a community to do this.
When the BCFF team and Lindsey Jarecki first met, they embodied the perfect example of how communities create quality care, despite all obstacles. When we say “community,” we mean different people with different backgrounds, skills, and savvy all uniting for a worthy cause.
Community for Kids is one of Nebraska Children’s Early Childhood initiatives which devotes support and resources to communities and providers to create quality care and programs for children ages 0-8. We’re glad to play a part in these efforts.
Boone County is one of 30 communities across Nebraska working to address the very real issue of childcare capacity and quality through the Communities for Kids initiative. Communities for Kids provides technical support and connection using a Collective Impact model.
The C4K team does this by providing resources for the communities and engaging members in the important conversation that quality childcare is linked to community vitality. C4K also supports communities in data and research to better understand each area’s unique childcare landscape. C4K then connects core early childhood community teams to resources for programming, financial supports, and experts to move their childcare planning forward.
Of course, Boone Beginnings wouldn’t be here without BCFF committee members, the Economic Development Corporation in Boone County, C4K, and the surrounding communities’ devotion to this project.
Jay said that he’s delighted by the faith and grit that emanates throughout Boone County’s community members.
“People get it,” said Jay. “Childcare is important for parents, employers, and kids.”
Aside from thanking the immediate team and community, Jay also attributes Communities for Kids for helping lay the foundation for the new, upcoming center.
“C4K has been a huge part,” said Jay. “It’s been great to have somebody to go to who’s backing the project.”
Now, back to BCFF’s initial reservations about whether a new center would prove cost effective.
Lindsey began by working alongside a few in-home childcare providers to help them begin their businesses. After assisting these providers in starting up their in-home centers, Lindsey, with the help of Mollie Morrow, began an afterschool program.
Even with the afterschool program, the need for a center for children from six months to kindergarten lingered.
Lindsey returned to BCFF and asked if she provided the team with a sustainable childcare model, would they reconsider creating a center? After doing extensive research and working with C4K budgets, Lindsey showed that a properly run center, if fully utilized, can be sustainable, if the building is fully paid for.
BCFF agreed to review Lindsey’s proposal. “When someone is good at what they do, you have to listen, especially when they present a compelling case,” said Jay after Lindsey related her findings.
Lindsey, however, agrees that this center didn’t just materialize overnight.
“The thought of building a center was an overwhelming concept and the finances were one of our top concerns,” said Lindsey. “I spent several months visiting with centers of all types around the state, in-home, private, non-profit, school-based, to better understand their budgets.”
From there, Lindsey said the Boone Beginnings committee analyzed her plan and concluded that if they were able to construct a fully funded center, they could do something that they initially didn’t think was possible.
“We could potentially create a sustainable business model,” said Lindsey. “We developed a capital campaign that would raise the money for the [center], a maintenance fund, and operating capital for the startup years. Around that time, we joined Communities for Kids and were guided by experts in all things childcare.”
After the BCFF team bought into Lindsey’s proposal, she began to work with C4K to create this model. C4K has been a mentor, resource, and funder who came into the picture two years ago and has remained a supporter ever since.
“She worked on other ways to address the [childcare] shortage,” said Jay about Lindsey’s efforts.
Originally employed since 2015 at BCFF, Lindsey’s hard work has since yielded a career transition, as she now works as Early Childhood Community Coordinator at Boone Beginnings. Lindsey still pays homage to BCFF for hiring her at a crucial time.
“BCFF hiring me was the first huge commitment towards addressing the childcare shortage. They took the initial leap of faith,” said Lindsey.
“They have invested in people by means of paying individuals to take on projects in the past, and it has been a hugely successful model for our community in other projects.”
Over the next few years, Boone Beginnings came together. From there, the team would brainstorm and come up with a solution – and it took the whole community.
Marti Beard, Assistant Vice President of Early Childhood programs, said that although the process has been gradual, it has been gratifying.
“We have partnered with the team for nearly two years and have provided tools for community engagement, utilization of data and research regarding young children and families in the community, and connection to multiple resources and people to support their project,” said Marti.
Lindsey described C4K as a key player in the project, especially when it came to budgeting.
“C4K specifically helped us to create an operating budget that should be sustainable long-term once the center is at or near full capacity without pushing the cost off on parents or our community,” she said.
Lindsey said that the Boone Beginnings Committee represents a diverse cross-section of her community.
“We have educators and childcare providers, business leaders and economic development groups. We are balanced with both males and females and individuals of all ages. I think this has been a key to our success. Everybody brings a different set of knowledge and perspectives to the planning and decision making,” said Lindsey.
Lindsey’s interest in this new childcare, center, however, is as multifaceted as she and the Boone Beginnings Committee. An early childhood educator and a mother herself, when Lindsey first moved to the area, she said that the lack of childcare prohibited her from returning to work.
“My husband and I also own a local business and saw firsthand the stress a childcare shortage was putting on the young parents we work with day to day,” said Lindsey.
“It was obvious that if Boone County was going to continue to grow and thrive, something needed to be done to address childcare capacity. We’re fortunate to have many young people moving back to the area, but they can only choose to live here if they have access to housing and childcare,” she said.
Five years later, these talented members have brought their various skillsets to the cause. Earlier this month, the team broke ground for Boone Beginnings. The team is grateful for the outpouring of support both within their initiative and without.
“[Childcare] is a community priority,” said Jay. “And you can tell by the unbelievable support and number of people who volunteered. Breaking ground is a big milestone,” he said.
Although Jay said the work is far from finished, he remains amazed at the ways the community has pitched in to help create the highest quality center possible.
“It’s been truly amazing how united and passionate the community is about this,” he said.
Whereas there’s power in numbers, there’s often support in money. Jay said the community went on to raise $3.6 million to make this early childhood dream a reality.
When Marti spoke at the groundbreaking ceremony, she echoed these sentiments. Marti said, “It has been my privilege to assist and support the Boone County team on their way to a successful child and family development center.”
Marti went on to commemorate the Boone County team. She said the team has worked diligently to get to the point of starting construction.
“It is certainly not an easy or fast process, and I commend each of you for the part that you have played to support the work of Boone Beginnings,” she said.
Marti said that Boone is leading by example as an inspiration for future early care programs and as a dedicated, caring community.
“Through our statewide and national work and connections, I can assure you that Boone County is setting the bar as an excellent example of a TRUE rural COMMUNITY-supported early childhood development center,” she said.
Marti said that early care remains linked to a community’s energy and growth. “Childcare is no longer just a ‘mom’ issue, but rather a community vitality issue,” she said.
“High-quality early childhood programs affect the community’s ability to attract young families to your communities for work and to raise their families. Childcare impacts the local workforce, economy, and the ability for communities to grow,” she said.
Aside from offering community growth, Marti said that childcare isn’t just a wave of the future – it is essential to our future, and so versatility and adaptability are key.
“By offering families a choice in the best type of care that works for their family and most importantly, quality childcare – you are working to positively change the trajectory of a child’s life,” she said.
Marti said that the science behind early brain development is irrefutable – 90% of a child’s brain is developed before they walk into a kindergarten classroom.
The data doesn’t lie. According to Marti and other early childhood experts, there are positive, long-term outcomes associated with children who receive high-quality early education and care.
“With a strong beginning in a quality, nurturing, curricula-rich environment with a strong relationship with caregivers, children will start school ready to learn, have significantly higher scores in math and reading, be more likely to graduate high school, go to college and earn a higher income over their lifetime,” said Marti.
“Boone Beginnings is making a difference, not only for children and families today but well into the future.”
Through C4K, Nebraska Children is proud to be a part of the Boone Beginnings’ work and look forward to our continued partnership through this exciting process.