Check presentation

Photo by GREGORY MYERS

Members of Community Church, The Newton County Childcare Initiative, Early Learning Indiana, The Child Care Resource Network and county officials pose with the $51,200 check from Early Learning Indiana.

A long time area preschool, which has been closed the past two years, will reopen its doors this fall.

Thanks to receiving two major grants, The Community Church in Roselawn is now preparing to offer preschool for 30 to 48 4-year-olds.

“One of our missions as a church is to meet the needs of our community,” said Dawn Kuiper, Community Church Connections Coordinator. “We had to stop our preschool program two years ago when North Newton opened its program, but that ended this past fall due to lack of funding, and there is definitely a need for a preschool in our area.”

The need for licensed preschool and early childcare is obvious in Newton County as there are no licensed daycares or preschools in the entire county except for Head Start in Roselawn and Goodland.

That is what drew Grant Britzke, Outreach Specialist for The Child Care Research Network, to approach Community Church.

“I am originally from this area and I knew they had a preschool at one time, it wasn’t until I visited with them that I learned they had closed down,” said Britzke. “I told them I would help them if they decided to restart the program. A few weeks later these grant opportunities came up and I encouraged them to apply for it.”

The Community Church, with the help of the Newton County Childcare Initiative Coalition, was able to secure a $93,175 grant from the Office of Early Childhood and Out-of-School Learning (OECOSL), a $51,200 grant from Early Learning Indiana and $6,000 in private donations.

“These two grants only apply for 4-year-olds, which is why we are starting our program there, but our ultimate dream for the future would be to include full-day childcare for all ages,” added Kuiper.

With the grants, the preschool will be able to accept preschool vouchers for families that qualify while they have one year to meet the three goals of Paths to Quality.

“Only licensed and regulated preschools can accept vouchers and that is important to have in a county which is considered a preschool and childcare desert,” added Britzke. “The economic impact of vouchers is huge for a county. Money that would otherwise be spent on daycare or preschool can now be spent at other businesses in the county.”

Community Church is also looking at having a sliding fee for tuition based on income or a tuition assistance program to help the families that don’t qualify for the vouchers.

“We don’t have the final details worked out yet, but we want to make our preschool available to as many of the community as possible,” added Kuiper. “We are hopeful we will continue to strengthen our relationship with the Roselawn area through this project. This wouldn’t have happened without the support of The Child Care Resource Network, the childcare initiative, and county officials.”

All the players who made these grants possible attended a check presentation ceremony Jan. 24 at the church.

“Thank you to everyone in this room, who has walked alongside Community Church in their efforts to continue to be a hub of community support for Roselawn and North Newton County,” said Brienne Hooker, Executive Director of the Jasper Newton Foundation, at the check presentation ceremony. “Newton County you grow good things here. Growing amazing children is just a part of that. It’s the biggest part of creating the community you want to see here.”

“This is phenomenal,” said Newton Council member Scott McCord. “Kids and quality education are the best infrastructure a county can have.”

“This will be a great asset to our county,” said Newton County Commissioner Mickey Read. “Childcare is well needed in our area especially in Roselawn, which has the largest population in the county.”

The preschool will open next fall with two classes of up to 24 kids in each class.

“We have already hired a lead teacher and we have plans to hire a second teacher, a full-time aide and a food service worker,” said Kuiper. “The church has a preschool planning team in place and a preschool board will be appointed. All staff will go through the proper background checks, drug testing and training needed.”

To see if you qualify for the voucher program contact Damitha Woods at 219-757-1957, or 888-757-1957 or email nwiccdf@geminus.org

Any Newton County residents that are caring for children but are not regulated are encouraged to contact The Child Care Resource Network. The staff there provide free services including training to help providers become licensed. To contact The Child Care Resource Network, call 765-742-7105 or email gbritzke@thechildcareresourcenetwork.org.

The Child Care Resource Network is the child care resource and referral (CCR&R) agency for Newton County and 11 other Indiana counties. Our goal is to work with families, child care providers, and community members to build capacity and increase the quality of child cares and early education programs.”