Board members and other advocates of the Greene County Early Learning Center in Jefferson are raising funds for a new facility.

GCELC near goal

Center ready to ask public for help with new building

Special to The Jefferson Herald

The Greene County Early Learning Center (GCELC) was recently notified it will be awarded $469,941 in grant funding from the state of Iowa to help construct a new 9,400-square-foot facility adjacent to its current location. 

GCELC will receive $75,000 through Future Ready Iowa’s special Child Care Challenge program and $394,941 from the DHS Investing in Iowa’s Childcare fund.

Both initiatives were created by the state to increase access to high-quality, affordable child care. 

“We’re so excited to be awarded these grant funds to help us meet our goal to increase child care access for working families in Greene County,” Jacque Andrew, GCELC co-president, said in a recent statement. “The pool of money that was appropriated by Gov. Reynolds reflects how important child care access is to Iowa’s economy.”

The GCELC is in Jefferson but serves families throughout the area. In fact, just over half of the children who currently use services reside outside of Jefferson. 

“We’ve known for years that Greene County has a high percentage of all parents working, which creates a great need for child care spots,” said Bill Monroe, GCELC co-president. “This need unfortunately was acutely highlighted during the COVID-19 pandemic, not just in our county, but across the state and nation. Child care is a priority.”

The substantial grants will be used by the GCELC board to support construction of a $1.98 million facility and provide furnishings that are designed specifically for early childhood care and education. 

The new building will provide the GCELC a permanent home with the technology, security and space infrastructure needed to eventually serve 145 children — an increase from its current licensure capacity of 94. 

The timing of the award aligned perfectly with the GCELC board’s plans to kick off community fundraising through its “Growth Happens Here” campaign.

According to Cherie Cerveny, GCELC director, the nearly yearlong project delay due to the pandemic allowed the board to make modifications, increase space efficiencies and reduce the scale of the project by nearly $1 million. 

“While it was discouraging a year ago to put everything on hold, especially after being notified of the $500,000 award from Grow Greene County, we’re confident this pause was beneficial in the end,” Cerveny said. “We’re excited to begin speaking to community members about the many benefits this project will not only offer our children, but the catalyst it will provide businesses for economic growth.”

The two state grants combined with the Grow Greene County award, a $250,000 commitment from Greene County supervisors and other early donations have pushed the current fundraising total to more than $1.25 million.

A volunteer committee is currently organizing to begin securing the remaining $730,000 needed to ensure construction of the new child care center. 

When completed, the building will be fully owned and operated by the GCELC. It will mark the first time in the organization’s 16-year history that it provides child care services in a permanent home.

“Timing is everything,” Andrew said, “and we’re so pleased that we can tell our community we’ve already secured 60 percent of the funds needed before launching the campaign and requesting donations.”

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