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Mt. Pleasant opens a new child care center

The center opened its doors July 6

Kristi Perry, executive vice president of the Mt. Pleasant Area Chamber Alliance, announced on Oct. 6, 2020, the establishment of the Mt. Pleasant Community Childcare Board. In less than a year, the center became a reality. (Union File Photo)

MT. PLEASANT — Back in October 2020, the Mt. Pleasant Chamber of Commerce announced that the Mt. Pleasant Childcare Center is coming to Henry County.

The child care center comes after years of desperate need for a child care center in Mt. Pleasant. As the economic heart of Henry County, the chamber and community members knew that the lack of child care was strangling the economy and its growth.

Mt. Pleasant has 201 registered child care seats available for 1,041 children under the age of 11. From 2014 to 2019, the county saw a 51 percent loss in registered child care programs, going from 41 to 20. Mt. Pleasant has gone without a licensed child care center since 2011 when the Owl's Nest closed.

The community has been working on the issue for several years. Discussions on how to address the issue began in March 2020 when business leaders and community members came together to consider possible solutions.

At the time, the group decided on a three-pronged approach, which included providing support to existing in-home providers, starting an awareness campaign and establishing a nonprofit board responsible for establishing a center.

From an economic standpoint, Perry said businesses have historically struggled to hire and recruit employees due to the child care shortage.

“It's really stopped some of our growth in the community. With this center, hopefully it will be easier on employees to hire and for people to relocate [to Mt. Pleasant],” she said.

Iowa loses an estimated $935 million annually due to a lack of child care and nearly 70 percent of parents in the state rely on family members for at least some child care, according to a study conducted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation.

The center recently opened it’s doors on July 6 after six months of renovations to the old Family Video building in Mt. Pleasant.

Ready for business

The Mt. Pleasant Childcare center is open for business and is currently serving around 50 children from Henry County.

Director Amy McLaughlin aims to nurture, educate and ensure safe play for the kids under her care. She is looking forward to being able to teach children through play and to better all of those under her care.

“Our philosophy is to provide safe, nurturing and fun care for the kids,” McLaughlin said. “Safety always has to come first because kids who do not feel safe do not thrive and learn, so they have to know that they’re safe with us to play, nurture them and have fun.”

They plan to nurture children by recognizing that everyone makes mistakes and to teach them to do better next time. These lessons come via play.

“Kids learn how to manage their emotions, to be patient, and how to interact with others. So the philosophy is going to be: All kids make mistakes and as adults it’s our job to give them tools to do better the next time,” McLaughlin said.

The child care center will be able to service around 68 kids. The center aims to provide child care services for years in the community. They will provide services for children aged 6 weeks to 4 years old.

The center is funded by fees charged to parents and donations from local businesses. The center will charge staggered rates depending on the age of the child per week. They will charge $175 per week for infants, $165 per week for children age 2, $155 for 3 year olds, and $145 for 4 year olds.

The child care center is aimed at helping families go back to work and not have to worry or stress about child care, which has been a reality for many in the community.

After-school program

The child care center is planning to open an after-school program at one of the elementary schools to help parents who aren’t able to pick their students up right at 3 p.m. when school lets out.

McLaughlin said that the program would serve kindergarten through fifth-grade students from after school until 6 p.m.

This would further make up for the lack of child care in Henry County especially for older children.

The program would provide help with homework, recreational time and a snack after-school.

“I have dreams for the child care center and the first of those dreams is to open up an after-school program,” she said. “There are a lot of families in the community that are not able to pick up their kids right at 3 o’clock when school gets out because they work later than that.”

What they need

The Mt. Pleasant Childcare Center is looking for clean and well taken care of donations for its center. Donations can be dropped off at 304 W. Washington St., Mt. Pleasant.

They are in need of:

  • Towels, dish cloths, cleaning cloths
  • Child-sized blankets
  • Sleep sacks or swaddling blankets
  • Bottle warmers
  • Educational toys for newborns through age 5
  • Rocking chairs
  • Adult-sized chairs
  • Children's books
  • Child-sized step stools
  • Dramatic play items (kitchen set, tool bench, dollhouse,
  • Office supplies
  • Craft supplies
  • Toys for outdoor play
  • Kitchen items (utensils, mixing bowls, cookware)

They will not accept:

  • Cribs
  • Used bottles and nipples
  • Nursery furniture
  • Pack and plays
  • Car seats
  • Items that are broken or in disrepair
  • Items that are dirty or damaged

The Mt. Pleasant child care center is still accepting registration in all age groups.

The new sign for the Mount Pleasant Childcare Center, which opened July 6.