The residents of Kenesaw, Nebraska love living there. After meeting several of them, you can understand why. Whether you’re a believer in fate, divine intervention, or remarkable human accomplishments, Kenesaw’s story blends all of these elements.
Meet Megan Krous. Three years ago, when Megan’s children entered school, she ran into childcare issues. When she couldn’t surmount those difficulties, she quit her job and stayed home with her children. But she and her cohort were not to be defeated.
Seeking to create a for-profit childcare business, Megan began to examine the many moving parts. Unfortunately, when she scrutinized the big picture, the vision didn’t cohere.
“It was impossible,” said Megan. “There were so many pieces! I needed a building; there wasn’t anything. Around our school, there wasn’t a location that was great for a [childcare] building.”
But because Megan was determined, and like attracts like, she remained patient. Eventually, she found her people – fellow Kenesaw residents and early care proponents from every walk of life.
Key players include Kenesaw United Child Care Coalition (KUCCC) board members Pastor Kathy Uldrich and President of the Board, Angela Keiser. Adams County Communities for Kids teamed up, too. Communities for Kids (C4K) is a Nebraska Children and Families Foundation Early Childhood initiative that partners with Nebraskan communities to provide tailored expertise and strategies to coordinate quality early care for children between the ages of 0-5.
Angela, who lives in Kenesaw with her husband and four children, is an example of KUCCC’s diversity and talents. A web designer by trade and a devoted citizen by nature, Angela become involved in the community’s quest to create childcare.
“I saw good teachers leave town because there was no childcare,” said Angela. “My husband is business owner, and I saw the impact that [childcare scarcity had] on our family business.”
Flashback to several years ago, before KUCCC came together. Megan met with Shonna Werth, Nebraska Children Early Childhood Programs Assistant Vice President, and did some number-crunching.
After giving the community a small survey, the results were astounding. Out of the fifty respondents who filled out the survey, forty children needed care.
“I took the information and said, ‘How do we do this?’ and nobody had done it,” said Megan.
After discussing the intricacies through with Angela, who at the time served on the preschool board with Megan, Megan decided to stay home with her children and temporarily put childcare aside. With her faith and patience in place, Megan took the high road.
“I told myself, ‘This is God’s thing. We’re going to wait,’” said Megan.
It turns out that divinity would intervene in its own time, on its own terms. The community, however, worked incredibly hard to get there. In early August of 2021, Kenesaw’s church will reopen as a childcare center.
Pastor Kathy, who was then the pastor of Kenesaw United Methodist Church, was a key player in KUCCC’s childcare strategy. As the church made the reluctant decision to close its doors, another one opened.
“Nobody likes to close a church,” said Pastor Kathy. “We were sad about losing our congregation, however, it was at opportune time, as KUCCC was looking for a building. We saw that coming, and that’s my involvement,” she said. “I’ve been part of the [KUCCC] board ever since.”
Sadly, Pastor Kathy said that the church only had 8 active participants, which wasn’t enough to keep it going. During KUCCC’s second meeting, the members recounted the rumor that the church would soon close. When Angela heard that the church was closing, she immediately called Pastor Kathy.
Pastor Kathy said, “When we made plunge into closing the church, we brought up to the [church] board that we had interest in KUCCC taking over the church. All of the congregation said, ‘We can’t think of a better way to keep mission and ministry alive!’”
With the church as a potential childcare center, KUCCC dissolved a major obstacle standing between Kenesaw and quality care. Best of all, the church sits only a block and a half away from the school.
Pastor Kathy said the congregation was so excited at seeing building stay alive, that they chose to give the building to KUCCC. But the process wasn’t simple.
“We jumped through a lot of hoops,” said Pastor Kathy. “The local congregations didn’t own the building. We had to go through 7 months of red tape, papers, and meetings, but we got the building gifted to KUCCC,” she said.
Still, more intervention was to come. With the church’s closing and the parsonage sold, the church was able to gift KUCCC with $110,000.
“It’s been a really positive thing for me to serve on the [KUCCC] board as the pastor of a former church,” said Pastor Kathy. “If we were to have built the structure, it would have cost a lot of money. We’d have to start from the ground up.”
Megan agreed. “And here we are!” she said, “It’s so crazy to me, and [Pastor] Kathy will say this is God’s divine intervention. If I had forced something 4 years ago, it would not be what we’re doing right now. We’re so blessed with what our board has evolved into,” she said.
Angela said that she holds another vision close as well.
“The bigger picture is… every child who enters [preschool] start[s] on a level playing field. I find it discouraging that access to quality childcare is only for a few people. It should be something that every family, no matter their background, can access. I love that our center will fill that gap, so every child can get that start and be ready to succeed!” said Angela.
Angela said that she, Pastor Kathy, and their fellow community members possess a few more common passions.
“We love raising our families here. We have great people and a tremendous school, but so many people have had to leave because there’s no reliable childcare,” she said. “The love of our town brought us together. We want other people to love living here and raising their families.”
Pastor Kathy left us with some lingering wisdom.
She said, “When I leave my [services], I give a parting challenge to my congregations: love God, love people, and make a difference. That [belief] is really strong in my heart and my life. That’s how I see this coalition and board; they love people. They make a difference. Kenesaw is the perfect place.”
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