“It’s been six years of no licensed child care in Kiowa County,” states Jan Richards of KCEDF. “But I think we’re finally close to making it happen.”
Richards is referencing the latest—and biggest—decision: the location of the child care center, which is typically the largest stumbling block to opening a licensed center. It would seem that that obstacle has been removed as of October 11th when Richards announced, “The First Baptist Church has voted on and approved the lease for us to have FLLCC, dba Little Leaders, in their location.”
As significant as a location is, this is one step in a series of steps that have been taken thus far. Future Leaders Learning and Care Center (FLLCC) operates with the following mission in mind: “To provide the opportunity and access to a safe and structured educational platform for the children of our community and surrounding areas. Using a core curriculum that is combined with an established, nurturing and health awareness program, FLLCC will inspire confidence and a positive self image. This will allow the children to reach their full growth potential. It will also help them understand the importance of expanding their education toward becoming fully engaged adults and leaders in our communities and country.”
FLLCC is also established as a 501(c)3 having already been recognized by the Secretary of State and granted an EIN number. It has already received preliminary approval from the state office of licensing, public health, the fire department and one child care funding provider.
A board of directors has been established with the following individuals in place: Shawn Kraft, Chairman; Debi Derby, Vice Chairman; Kayla Murdock, Secretary; Jennifer Crow, Treasurer; Braylyn Eder, Director; Dennis Pearson, Director; Jan Richards, Director and Tina Kraft, FLLCC Administrative Director. These individuals, with input from the community, have determined that Future Leaders Learning and Childcare Center will be open Monday through Friday from 6:00am to 6:00pm, with exception of holidays, and accept children from infants to 12 year olds. The opening date is scheduled for June 1, 2019 with pricing yet to be determined.
Future Leaders Learning Childcare Center will initially be run through KCEDF, a collaboration that not only benefits the childcare center but KCEDF, as well, through job creation—one of KCEDF’s mission in the community.
As is always the case with endeavors such as this, funding and financial support is an important consideration, and already the community is “stepping up”. Eastern Slope Rural Telephone is donating phone service and internet to the project. The Kiowa County commissioners are donating what supplies and materials remain from the old childcare, including playground equipment and fencing. They’re also agreeing to pledge the assistance of the Road and Bridge employees. (“Thank you!” Richards adds.)
Community involvement has been a part of this endeavor from the beginning.
When Kiowa County closed its licensed child care center roughly six years ago, it was assumed by some that other people would be able to reopen the facility under new management. That turned out to be a challenge—a challenge so substantial that, despite the interest never waning, years passed without the ability to make any progress.
Meanwhile, individuals in the community stepped in and filled an extremely important void for parents with young children. In fact, several individuals, who could not continue to work without child care, quit their jobs and opened their home to other parents in similar situations.
Nonetheless, efforts to open a licensed childcare center continued.
The Cheyenne Kiowa Lincoln Early Childhood Council (CKLECC), a non-profit group devoted to assisting in opening child care centers, came to the area and conducted a survey, the results of which largely confirmed what everyone already knew: the need for childcare in Kiowa County was very real, and the lack of child care was causing hardship for parents. Julie, CKLECC director, offered her assistance in helping to get things going.
Tristen Sheridan spearheaded a group and, working with KCEDF plus a group of concerned citizens, visited several sites, formed a plan, decided on a name and did the paperwork for being established as a 501(c)3. At that same time, Jan Richards and the KCEDF Board of Directors agreed to donate an acre of land from Kiowa Creek Estates.
However, as Commissioner Cindy McLoud discovered, in the years since the original childcare center had been open, the regulations had increased. Six years ago, there were roughly 400 pages of regulations. In six years, that number had increased by 15% to 451 pages. It quickly became apparent that the physical space needed for a licensed child care center of any appreciable size was going to be significant; the specifics of how that space was laid out was almost daunting.
As anyone who’s tried to build a house knows quite well, building a structure with a large footprint would require a construction loan so large that the payments would be a real burden. Combine those payments with the costs involved in operating the center itself on a daily basis and the financial picture is simply not sustainable.
That was a hard wall to hit, and people looked for a way around it. Pre-fabricated and metal buildings were researched. Commissioner McLoud wrote several grant applications and most were willing to fund a center once it was built…but money to actually build the center? Not so much.
Still refusing to give up, people began to think “outside the box” and come up with ways to get around having to build a building.
What emerged was the epitome of community partnership. The vast majority of churches sit unused during the weekdays. At the same time, the vast majority of churches can also use some financial assistance outside of what parishioners give every week. FLLCC needed a space, just during the weekdays. They also were willing to pay for the space.
With that community spirit in mind, KCEDF, the board of FLLCC and various community stakeholders are working on grants and soliciting donations. The first need presenting itself is the need for some renovations for the First Baptist Church to meet regulations plus salaries for individuals who are beginning with completing necessary paperwork and planning.
As June 2019 draws closer, additional funds will be needed for program development, additional work to the property, completion of all renovations and marketing/advertising the new childcare center. With these needs in mind, FLLCC is planning on doing fundraising, crowd source funding and seeking out additional grants.
“People need to go to our Facebook page and our GoFundMe page,” Richards states. “Both are under FLLCC. Plus, we have a website in the works which should be done soon. We would appreciate help from anyone with the heart and desire to help guide this project along.” Finally, Richards sums up the feelings of all involved in the following way. “Children are a precious commodity,” she says, “and we are extremely proud to provide licensed care once more.”
The FLLCC is already looking for passionate and caring workers! If you're interested and invested in providing a safe and educational environment for our children, call the KCEDF Office at 719-438-2200.