SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The loss of their own day care prompted two parents from Larchwood, Iowa, to organize a non-profit day care in the town.
The day care center closed in September of 2021. The town also lost an in-home day care at around the same time.
“Not having day care is probably one of the most stressful things I’ve ever experienced,” Janae Metzger said.
Although the parents were able to find temporary day care, they knew they needed a permanent solution.
“It didn’t take much,” Janae said, and soon he was reaching out to other parents including Jessica Metzger, who is related through extended family.
Jessica joined Janae’s effort to establish a day care that is scheduled to open before school starts this fall. The center is called Wiggles and Giggles Childcare Center.
“We knew we had to do something,” Jessica said.
They’ve secured a building in Larchwood in good condition with a supportive owner. The remodeling is about 95% completed. A director has been hired who is also passionate about the center and is helping to hire employees.
But getting to this point took more than just a good idea, they said.
“We’re hoping to create something long-lasting,” Jessica said. Which is why they chose a non-profit model with a board of directors and a foundation.
“We dug in,” Janae said.
The women talked with a similar day care business model in Rock Rapids, Iowa, called Kids Club.
Jessica said that day care has a successful business model.
They also worked with Lyon County Economic Development Director Steve Simons and the state of Iowa’s Small Business Administration.
“There is certainly a process to do it,” Simons said. “It’s not just going to be saying ‘Hey, let’s start a day care.'”
The process required weeks and many hours of research including multiple meetings with an SBA consultant.
“A non-profit doesn’t mean not for profit,” Janae said. “You still have to be profitable to make your ends meet.”
The non-profit day care will need to pay employees, pay utility bills, pay for insurance and other expenses.
A day care is a difficult business to open and maintain, Simons said. But, he added, the Larchwood group has taken the necessary steps and is on the right path.
The day care also needed a board of directors with varying levels of work and employment experience, Jessica said.
The group wanted directors who would ask tough questions and also provide insights about finances, the workforce and other details of operating a business, Jessica said.
“You have to have that robust discussion,” Janae said.
Lyon County Community Childcare foundation was also established. The foundation and non-profit status allow the day care to receive donations and apply for grants and also work with public partners, Jessica said.
The foundation is working with the city of Larchwood and has received donations from businesses and private donors, the two women said. The response in the community has been positive, they said.
“It really is an investment in the community by supporting us,” Janae said.
Day care is one of the building blocks for a sustaining and growing community, Simons said.
“It’s extremely important,” Simons said.
Working parents need day care to be able to work.
In some cases, it’s the difference between staying in a community or moving away, Jessica said. She works at a local school and recalled a parent who recently called to say that if she couldn’t find day care her family would need to move.
They knew there was a need for the day care, but they didn’t plan on filling all 46 spots so soon, Janae said.
They projected slower growth but “quite honestly, we’re full or just about full,” Janae said.
The day care will include children from about six weeks to six years old. That should meet an immediate need for day care but there are plans for expansion.
“Child care doesn’t end as soon as a child goes to school,” Jessica said.
The future plan would be to add after school programs.
“We’ve heard from parents about the need for after school programs,” Jessica said.
“It’s exciting what they are doing,” Simons said of the Larchwood group. “They are committed and passionate about it, which is what you need to be successful.”
Janae said the discussions with neighboring communities won’t end when the day care in Larchwood opens. Child care is a need throughout the area and child care centers can continue to learn from each other and support each other.