Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
FAIRFIELD – The Cambridge Little Achievers Center held a ribbon-cutting ceremony last Monday afternoon to signify completion of the new child care center on Libertyville Road on the south side of Fairfield.
The center’s director, Tiffany Finch, had the honor of snipping the ribbon with a pair of giant scissors while about 90 people gathered around her outside the entrance.
The center opened its doors for its first day of operation on Monday, Jan. 16, when its staff of 17 welcomed 60 children. The center’s hours are from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and it will serve kids as young as 6 weeks old up through age 12.
The building is 14,000 square feet, which is enough space to house up to 185 children. Finch said the center wanted to start with a more modest number, and then as interest in the center grows, she can hire more staff to meet the greater demand.
Children at the center are divided into six groups, and will be supervised by staff trained especially for that age range: infant; 1-year-olds; 2-year-olds; 3-year-olds; 4-year-olds; and school age, meaning kids aged 5-12.
Finch and her staff members said that the children get breakfast, lunch and two snacks during the day. Each age group will have opportunities to play and learn at the same time. For instance, the rooms include age-appropriate books and educational materials covering geography, anatomy, science, literature and art. Finch said kids will get a chance to hone their fine motor skills, and do fun things like “dramatic play,” where they get to dress up in costumes.
The center has playground equipment outside in three distinct areas reserved for children of different ages, one for infants, another for toddlers and the third for children aged 5 and above.
Finch said she is partnering with Fairfield High School and Indian Hills Community College to bring in high school and college students to work at the center. She said the center has been fortunate thus far in being able to find enough workers to fill its positions.
The Cambridge Little Achievers Center has a five-member board of directors consisting of President Bryan Hunger, Vice President Teri Bockting, Terri Kness, Kate Van Pelt and Joshua Laraby.
Kness said she felt blessed to be asked to be on the board. When she was a new mom, she used an in-home daycare, and said having a facility as nice as the Cambridge Little Achievers Center would have been a phenomenal option.
“To help current and future parents have a safe place for their children to go is really rewarding,” she said.
The Cambridge Little Achievers Center is the product of an organization originally called Jefferson County Kids, which was formed in response to a 2018 study showing that Jefferson County had a deficit of over 500 child care spaces. Kness said that since that study was conducted before the pandemic, the deficit today is likely even larger. After four years of planning, almost three years of fundraising, and about nine months of construction, Fairfield’s new child care center is now a reality.
“We’re really excited for kids to come here, to learn and grow,” Kness said.
Tad Morrow, project manager for Carl A. Nelson, the company hired to be construction manager, said after the ribbon-cutting that it feels good to see the fruits of his labor and that of his co-workers come to fruition. He said the project was bid in September 2021, and Carl A. Nelson made sure to procure its building materials early to avoid any delays. Morrow said construction went smoothly because they were building on undeveloped land that was previously just a field.
Laraby, who apart from being a board member on the child care center is also the executive director of Grow Fairfield Economic Development Association, said the Cambridge Little Achievers Center is an incredible example of a successful public-private partnership, given that both private individuals and businesses as well as state and local governments contributed funds toward its construction.
The idea to build this child care center was the brainchild of two organizations: Grow Fairfield (previously FEDA) and Early Childhood Iowa of Iowa/Jefferson/Keokuk Counties. Laraby said those groups identified the need for child care, began conversations with stakeholders, and fostered the development of not just this center but also grant and technical assistance to other child care centers and home providers.
The amount of money pledged toward the child care center is about $4.8 million, which was raised from early 2020 to the end of 2022. Cambridge Investment Research was the largest donor with a pledge of $1.25 million. TrafFix Devices was the first entity to make a pledge, coming in at $500,000. The Greater Jefferson County Foundation pledged $250,000, and two businesses each contributed $125,000: Agri-Industrial Plastics and Dexter.
State and local governments played an important role, too. The Jefferson County Board of Supervisors granted $400,000, while the City of Fairfield contributed $250,000. A Community Development Block Grant from the Iowa Economic Development Authority amounted to $600,000, and grants from other state agencies – Iowa Workforce Development and the Iowa Department of Human Services – totaled about $890,000.
Forty additional individuals, organizations and businesses also made contributions to the center ranging from $50 to $100,000.
The center would not have been possible without the Jefferson County Health Center donating 3.5 acres of land.
Call Andy Hallman at 641-575-0135 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org