Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota
ADDRESSING THE CHILDCARE SHORTAGE

United Way provides major grant to Tower childcare center

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TOWER— The United Way of Northeastern Minnesota has made a second grant to assist the start-up of the Little Eagles Childcare Center, now expected to open next month at the Tower Elementary School.

The United Way has been a major benefactor to the project from the beginning, with a total contribution to date of $19,000. The organization made an initial planning grant of $4,250 this past spring with the expectation that the nonprofit Tower-Soudan Community Development Corporation, which is assisting with the childcare start-up, would make a second request once it had a more complete picture of all of the costs involved. The United Way has now provided the second grant request, for $14,750.

“It’s critical to have partners like the United Way to make a project like this happen,” said Little Eagles board president Troy Swanson. “They have been incredibly supportive and great to work with from the beginning,” Swanson added.

Addressing the critical shortage of childcare availability in the region has been a high priority for the United Way of Northeastern Minnesota.

The latest grant will fund the final equipment purchasing, training costs for staff, and working capital for initial staff wages. The center will operate as a nonprofit and is operated by its own board of directors. Due to complex state rules, the center will only be able to serve children 31 months through 66 months of age this year. Organizers are currently working on an expansion plan that will allow them to serve more children, and a wider spread of ages, in the future. “We wish we could serve all ages, but the state rules are such that that isn’t possible in the current facility,” said Swanson.

The TSCDC also received a $1,500 grant this past week from Lake Country Power’s Operation Round-up for childcare center funding. That grant will primarily fund equipment and other start-up supplies. “We’re incredibly grateful to Lake Country Power for their help,” said Swanson. “Operation Round-up has been a great source of funding for community efforts all over the region.”

Other local businesses and institutions have provided generous donations to the center start-up as well, including Tower Vision 2025, Nordic Home North, and St. Martin’s Catholic Church.

With the center’s anticipated start-up funding needs largely in place, center director Amy Richter and the board are now focused on staff hiring. The board conducted interviews of staff last week and has made hiring decisions this week, pending background checks.

The center is still waiting for the final sign-off by the Department of Human Services on the licensing, but that is now expected any day. It will also need approval from the Health Department and the Fire Marshal, but should not pose any major issues. The Fire Marshal did conduct a preliminary review of the facility and the center has followed his guidance in its own planning.

In short, after months of planning, purchasing, and hiring, the center is finally coming together. “We hope to be open within the first-half of October,” said Richter.

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