SPICER—Brand new, pint-sized tables and chairs, books, cribs and colorful toys were unpacked from boxes Monday, and in a mad dash against the clock, were put in place in the new child care center in Spicer in time for a ribbon-cutting Thursday morning.
A collective “whew” could be heard by the volunteers and staff from the Kandiyohi County Area YMCA who have been involved with the fast-paced project to create a new day care facility to help meet a serious shortage of child care in the county.
Located in the Green Lake Mall, the YMCA Early Learning Center in Spicer is licensed for 90 children, from six weeks of age until they transition to kindergarten.
It opens for business at 6:45 a.m. Monday with about 35 children expected, but those numbers are expected to gradually increase over the next couple months.
It was a year ago that the idea of opening a YMCA day care center in Spicer was floated.
“We recognized that child care is a need in the community and we wanted to—not just talk about what we could do—but do something,” said Jenny Holweger, executive director of the YMCA, which also operates a child care facility at the Kandiyohi County Health and Human Services building in Willmar.
After space in the Green Lake Mall was identified as a potential location, Holweger said she approached the Spicer City Council.
“I thought I’d probably have to sell it (idea) but it sold itself and they asked ‘when.’ So that’s how it really got rolling,” Holweger said.
“We’re just proud and happy to have it here,” said Spicer Mayor Denny Baker during a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Baker said he’s also “proud” that the city contributed $100,000 for the project. “It’s a joy for us to see this happen in Spicer,” he said.
Before any construction could begin, a committee set out to raise $500,000 in donations.
Area businesses, the Spicer Economic Development Authority, the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development and numerous individuals donated about $850,000 for the project, which included a “baby shower” to equip the rooms with furnishings.
In July a “wall-breaking” event was held and construction began to turn the vacant mall space into a day care center.
“So from July 30th until today, we have been under construction and we have transformed an area that used to be a pharmacy and a clinic in the Green Lake Mall into an early learning center,” she said.
There were late nights this week “putting those finishing touches” on the center, as well as a play area in the hallway of the mall that’s open for all kids in the community, Holweger said.
“We’ve worked really hard to make this a family-friendly place and—hopefully—attractive to parents and families in the community,” she said.
There are still openings at the center in all the different age groups—infant, toddler and preschool.
Holweger said they intentionally started with a small number of children because there are new teachers and new kids in a brand new facility and they wanted to ease into the operation.
Because the biggest need is for infant care—and because there are babies on the list that have not been born yet—one toddler room is being temporarily used as an additional infant room.
By the end of 2020, there are expected to be 82 children at the center.
By 2021, Holweger said she expects the center to be at its maximum capacity of 90.
West Central Tribune by Carolyn Lange