And yes, that includes everything down to the tiny toilets.
Lindsey Jarecki, Boone Beginnings Early Childhood Community Coordinator, said she recalls this detail fondly.
“One thing that makes me laugh is back in the early days, Jay Wolf and I went to Omaha to take a tour of some Educare programs, and he couldn’t stop talking about tiny toilets,” said Lindsey.
Jay is one of Lindsey’s fellow core team members. The team created Boone Beginnings Early Childhood and Family Development Center out of laughter and inspiration.
“I can’t tell you how many times the tiny toilets come up,” said Lindsey. “I’m like, ‘This is what’s getting your attention?’”
Flash-forward a few years, and Boone Beginnings, Albion’s childcare center opened its doors in November 2021, tiny toilets and all.
“Now we have our tiny toilets! I tease Jay about this all the time! EVERYTHING is tiny; it’s a tiny, little world,” said Lindsey.
The world of childcare may be tiny, but the issue is larger than life. Boone Beginnings has always understood these complexities and done a remarkable job engaging their whole community.
Boone Beginnings, moreover, is one of the earliest C4K programs to work with this Nebraska Children and Families Foundation’s initiative.
The core team has always balanced their sense of humor with a sense of curiosity. Lindsey said that the community spoke to their C4K predecessor, Red Cloud, which created the impressive Valley Development Center with C4K’s expertise.
“We talked to Red Cloud in every way we could,” said Lindsey. “They’re the second group of communities [to join] C4K.”
Lindsey said she got the ball rolling and spread the message about early childhood programs’ importance.
“We’re always striving to build partnerships with the school. Early childhood is different than babysitting!” said Lindsey.
“We spent a couple of years educating the community through events, publicity, and articles; we were in everyone’s face and went to every meeting to help [my community] understand, so when we did start fundraising, it was an easy task.
“Our lesson from Red Cloud was to talk to everyone. No group is too small,” said Lindsey.
When a few of her fellow residents weren’t on board with quality care, the group took a boomerang approach.
Thus, Lindsey imparts advice to new C4K communities – when you meet resistance, stay persistent.
“Go talk, and keep going back,” said Lindsey.
“Our efforts paid off, even with fundraising. We didn’t get money from a specific donor until the third ask. Then, they donated $80,000!”
Lindsey said that her team’s perseverance paid off.
“You have to keep giving examples about how early childhood [programming] impacts people,” said Lindsey.
In the beginning, though, Boone Beginnings struggled to convey the message of early care’s importance.
“The biggest challenge has been educating our community and helping them understand what high-quality early childhood [care] looks like,” said Lindsey.
“Before this [new center], we had mostly in-home [providers], so although people coming to our community understand center-based care, the previous generations who had not seen [quality care] in that setting before, found the concept foreign,” said Lindsey.
Lindsey said that the core team was still determined. One of the ways they spread the importance of their work was through partnerships.
“Partnering with the Department of Economic Development was our biggest win,” said Lindsey.
“They do our P.R. and help us to tap into the business and growth community who didn’t think childcare impacted them. Once we bridged that gap, it made things fall into place.”
As much as Boone Beginnings can impart tested-and-true advice to other aspiring C4K communities, Lindsey said to be aware that everyone’s childcare needs are different.
“Every community is different; I’m so proud of how our community stepped up and raised $4 million in two years. A lot of the money came from people who did not have a connection to Boone Beginnings; it blows my mind,” she said.
Lindsey said that no matter what your fellow residents’ needs are, listening is essential.
“I would tell people to listen; it’s the most important thing you can do,” she said when asked to advise new C4K communities.
“Listening has to come first. Get the data; hear what people want, need, and their perspective. If you cannot tailor this [childcare] to what your community wants and just fit your agenda – it won’t work.”
But listening, Lindsey said, does not mean remaining silent. She said that when someone else doesn’t share your vision of quality care, you can effectively communicate your stance.
“Gently correct, if need be; listen, and guide. The project won’t be successful if you don’t let it reflect the community as a whole,” she said.
“For me, every interaction was a piece to the puzzle. Don’t discard anything; even if your interactions aren’t positive, you’ll get something out of them by removing your emotions,” said Lindsey.
Lindsey imparted another bit of wisdom to burgeoning C4K communities. “Diversify your team,” she said. “It cannot be just teachers or economic developers.”
Boone Beginnings’ core team reflects this professional array of talents.
“We intentionally have a school board member, childcare provider, preschool teacher, Boone County Foundation Fund board member, an economic developer, and a member involved in health care,” said Lindsey.
“Our Board is very calculated. We know when Jay goes off, his role is a connection to [Boone County Foundation Fund]. That resource has been priceless. Having our board members go back to the other boards they serve on and communicate is incredible. It builds trust in us. This process is all about trust,” she said.
Finally, Lindsey said the childcare process entails moving gradually.
“You HAVE to take your time. I think of huge mistakes we could have made; thank goodness, we slowed down and asked questions,”
Although Boone Beginnings has moved gradually, their funding has not!
“Something we did not expect, is for the fundraising to go as fast as it did,” said Lindsey.
“I feel like everything is unexpected. Every time we feel like we’ve tapped the community out with donations and support, it just keeps growing. It just keeps gaining momentum and not plateauing,” she said.
According to Lindsey, the delegation has sped up the creation.
“We have a special team of volunteers who oversee the construction. They have the knowledge, and the amount of time it takes [to create a childcare center] is crazy,” she said.
In addition, Boone Beginnings has also added a director, which Lindsey said has added to their success.
“I think we were all afraid of who would be the director once we built [Boone Beginnings]. We had high hopes, and we got lucky,” said Lindsey.
“The individual we hired is incredible. She came from Head Start and has experience in leadership in classrooms. She brings a level of expertise and professionalism to the community,” said Lindsey.
Lindsey said that C4K helped her and the team throughout this process. One of the best things about being involved in C4K, Lindsey said, is that our staff offer expertise, an ear, and a shoulder.
“Marti [Beard] is an emotional sounding board for me,” said Lindey about her work with Nebraska Children’s Associate Vice President of Early Childhood Programs.
“I could not have gone through this without her in my corner. Before C4K, I was doing what an Early Childhood Coordinator would do, but without a title and resources,” said Lindsey.
Lindsey said that C4K’s expertise provides a welcome alternative to her previous research of quality care.
“I was cold-calling and driving through the state, asking [providers] questions; I wasted so much time. But being part of C4K was the connecting point to everything,” said Lindsey.
“Instead of spending months researching who can I ask this weird question, I email [a C4K staff member], they’ll say, ‘Contact this person, and contact this organization.’”
Lindsey said that Marti and the team asked the right questions long before Boone Beginnings opened its doors.
“Marti has foresight into the process; she’s supportive but says, ‘Have you thought about this? Maybe check in with the timeline?’ C4K provides us with a legitimacy we would not have gotten otherwise,” said Lindsey.
“When I am fundraising, I immediately say that C4K and [Nebraska Children] back us, and people believe me. People who don’t know our group trust us; they know we use experts, resources, and research.”