Fosston child care center set to open this spring secures federal funding
Michelle Landsverk, community and economic development director in Fosston, says the Prairie Pines Childcare Center board of directors is working to finish the building, secure licensing and hire staff, with a goal of opening Prairie Pines Childcare Center on May 1.
FOSSTON, Minn. — Funding has been secured $418,000 for renovations at Prairie Pines Childcare Center, a nonprofit child care facility in Fosston, Minnesota set to open this spring.
Michelle Landsverk, community and economic development director in Fosston, says the Prairie Pines Childcare Center board of directors is working to finish the building, secure licensing and hire staff, with a goal of opening Prairie Pines on May 1.
“It’s a balancing act to bring all these things together at the same time in concert so that we can open, but if everything aligns and works out as we’re hoping, we are working toward May 1 as an opening date,” said Landsverk.
An announcement from Sen. Tina Smith’s office on Friday, March 18, said the funding will strengthen access to affordable child care and support Fosston’s workforce. The funding is provided through a program called Congressionally Directed Spending, where project leaders can apply for funding by submitting a proposal to a state’s senators. Senators can then review those proposals and pick projects in their states to direct funding to.
Landsverk thinks Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Smith, both Democrats from Minnesota, see the importance of child care, which led to Prairie Pines being selected to receive funding.
“They’re strong champions for child care, and particularly in greater Minnesota, it’s a dire need, in just about every small community, especially where there are growing employers,” said Landsverk. “People can’t fully engage in the workforce if they don’t have child care, and I think we all know right now how tight labor is.”
The idea for a child care center in Fosston came about in the first place because of workforce needs, said Landsverk. In 2017, when city leaders in Fosston were drafting a comprehensive plan for the city, they found that the lack of child care in Fosston was a barrier for economic growth in the community. Landsverk was asked to lead a task force to tackle the problem.
After exploring options for purchasing or buying a building to house a child care center, ultimately with no luck, a local business owner, Leah Faudskar, offered to donate a building to the cause, on the condition it would be used to house a nonprofit child care center.
The funds secured by Smith and Klobuchar will help cover the cost of renovations needed for the building to fit the needs of a child care center, like removing walls to make bigger rooms.
“With this federal money, now we’re able to also completely finish the lower level of the building, which will allow for additional child care capacity,” she said.
Prairie Pines will have the capacity for 77 children once open. In 2020, First Children’s Finance, a nonprofit organization that provides assistance to child care businesses, identified the need for 127 additional child care spots in Fosston for children, ranging from birth to five years old.
“We will have taken a significant step to fill that gap,” said Landsverk.
Previously, Prairie Pines was awarded a $240,000 grant from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development in a round of funding to support economic development by increasing numbers of quality child care providers across Minnesota. Between the DEED grant and federal funding, says Landsverk, the child care center is expected to open debt free.
“Anyone who is familiar with child care as an industry knows that the margins are very, very thin,” she said. “Debt would not have been a good thing, but our board and our task force felt we needed to step forward and try to raise the money any way we could. With the award of these two funding sources, we will be debt free or very close to debt free.”
The donation of the building and support from individuals and businesses in the community have also helped the center financially, she says.
The announcement from Smith’s office says projects can expect to receive funds over the next several months.