The windchill outside was 8 below zero on Wednesday when Brayden Halbur reared back with the Spider-Man bouncy ball in his little, 4-year-old arm in ready to whip the squishy orb more than 25 feet to his friends.
Luckily for everyone involved Brayden was wearing jeans and a T-shirt inside the newly expanded indoor playroom — part of a more than $200,000 expansion that was completed in September at Manning Child Care Center.
“On cold winter days like today the kids are able to come back here and still run off that energy they need to,” MCCC Director Michelle Starman said. “We were able to put restrooms and a maintenance closet in here as well.”
In addition to the playroom, a 1,100-square-foot classroom was added to accommodate school-aged children. The expansion increases the center’s total space from 4,400 square feet to about 6,500 square feet.
Starman said the new space has made life easier for her, her staff, parents and most importantly the children.
“It’s just amazing; the difference in (the kids’) attitudes toward coming to day care now,” she said. “They have new toys and their own space. We were in a crunch before we built this and not able to move kids around as much because we were so strapped on space. It gave us more flexibility to have older kids over here, and that leaves more room in the preschool room.”
The center’s capacity has increased from 60 children to 84 since the expansion. Starman said around 60 children are cared for on an average day. The six classrooms now at the staff’s disposal is a far cry from the two rooms they were limited to only 10 years ago.
Starman said the center’s staff loves the pliability of the new setup.
“We’ve seen the increase in the number of families we serve, and we just have that cushion now where we can accommodate more families,” Starman said. “Knowing that there’s more room here and we’re not stuffing kids in definitely helps.”
Brad Vollstedt, president of the Manning Child Care Board, said it took a community effort over the course of three years to keep the center growing and get the project accomplished.
“We certainly could have never done it without all the people that did a lot of work for it,” he said. “Especially Main Street Manning and the Manning Betterment Foundation certainly. The people of Manning know how important child care is to economic development. Everyone has been supportive, and it’s been a collaborative effort.”
Since 2013, the center received money from: The Timmerman Trust, Prairie Meadows, Lampe Trust, Iowa West Foundation, Barbara Renze Foundation, $75,000 from a Main Street Manning challenge grant, and the last $14,000 to complete the project from the Manning Betterment Foundation.
Both Vollstedt and Starman said they see child care as a necessity for economic development. The project took shape because Manning is a growing community and they’d like to keep it that way.
“By 2013, (the board) felt that it was a need in the community,” Starman said. “There are lots of in-home providers, but they’re full as well. We still get calls (from parents who need child care) every week, but I can’t just tell them we for sure have space. It’s dependent on staffing.”
Kevin Boyle, president of the Manning Betterment Foundation, said he was happy the Foundation could help put the finishing touches on what was a very collaborative project. He said complaints about the lack of quality child care options in Manning was frustrating area parents and they wanted to do something to help.
“We’re seeing quite a few of our homegrown kids coming back,” Boyle said. “They want to raise their family here in manning which has created an increase in demand. Without quality child care it’s tough to grow a community.”
Vollstedt and Boyle each said they have been impressed with Starman’s leadership both before and after the expansion. Boyle said that now that the staff has grown he’s heard nothing but good things from parents.
“This was a big project,” Vollstedt said. “At one time we thought it was just a pipe dream, but with the work of a lot of people that pipe dream become a reality.”
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