A nurturing, safe and educational environment. A boon to the local economy. A godsend.
These are just some of the ways Leoti’s new childcare center — The Grow & Learn Childcare Center, or GLCC — has been described by locals, businesses, donors and other stakeholders.
The much-needed $1.3 million building broke ground in early June after several years of planning and preparation by local organizers — primarily concerned parents — who recognized how a lack of childcare resources was causing “an economic crisis” in their community of about 2,100 residents.
One of those advocates, Wichita County Director of Economic Development Nikki Bjurstrom, said she’s spoken to individuals on both sides of the business aisle, employees and employers, who share that sentiment.
“I’ve talked to so many people — this truly is something that our community needs very badly,” Bjurstrom said during June’s groundbreaking ceremony. “This center will provide childcare spots for people who need full-time, part-time, or occasional childcare, jobs for people who want to work with children but aren’t certified teachers, and will also become an essential tool to keeping Leoti thriving and alive going forward.”
The GLCC is a grassroots project with a multitude of private and public funding sources. Funding sources include donations, loans, challenge grants, tax credits and also includes a $200,000 USDA Rural Economic Development Loan facilitated through Wheatland Electric Cooperative.
The interest-free, 10-year loan agreement will provide just over 15% of the project’s total cost and is one of several economic development projects our cooperative has helped fund across our southwest and south-central Kansas service territory. The new facility in Leoti is the seventh such funded community project since Wheatland Electric began partnering with local businesses and organizations through the USDA loan program in 2007.
The GLCC, a 3,565 square-foot wood-framed building, will be located on USD 467 school grounds at 302 N. Indian Road, just north of Wichita County High School and is expected to open January 2022. Once complete, it will feature four classrooms, a kitchen, an office and storage area.
A parking lot adjacent to the building will include separate staff and handicap parking spaces, and a one-way circle drive will make child drop off and pick up seamless for parents. Outdoors, the center will have a fenced-in playground and natural outdoor playscape for children of all ages.
The 35 available spots for children age five and under — about 45% of the need identified in the community — include three infant slots and 10 toddler slots, vastly improving the capacity for childcare resources within Wichita County.
Currently, only one licensed daycare home exists within the community, which only accepts children two years and older, according to Bjurstrom. In fact, since 2010, the community has lost eight private daycare homes, forcing several residents to look outside the community for childcare assistance.
Advocates of the new childcare center are hopeful that the soon-to-be openings at the GLCC will have ripple effects across the region, easing childcare resources in neighboring communities since some locals will be returning to their hometown for this service.
“Access to childcare will revitalize our community, making it a better place to run a successful business, with increased employee recruitment, reduced turnover, improved productivity and most importantly, strengthened families,” added Bjurstrom.
For now, as construction continues, organizers are hopeful that the Wichita County community will help them close the remaining gap in fundraising prior to the opening of the center in January.
To date, about 75% of the funds needed have been raised, and a $275,000 challenge grant from the Oklahoma-based Mabee Foundation is “an ideal way for members of the community to leverage their gifts and help us reach our goal,” GLCC advocates have said.
For more information or to pledge toward the project, contact Bjurstrom at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This bird's eye view of the soon-to-be childcare center in Leoti was provided by the architectural firm.