The Mad River Valley Community Fund is donating $50,000 to Neck of the Woods, a new child care center in Waitsfield.
Neck of the woods (NOW) is launching a fundraising campaign to purchase the former Small Dog Electronics building from Don and Grace Mayer, who have been providing NOW with free space for summer camps/day care since July. The purchase price is $700,000. That price combined with $1.5 million upfitting costs means NOW needs to raise about $1.5 million. The community fund donation is being used to leverage additional grant funding.
NOW is working to create a year-round child care facility that will expand local offerings with infant and toddler care and add spaces to its summer camp offerings. NOW has recently received a change of use permit from the Waitsfield Development Review Board for the first phase of its redevelopment plan, which calls for creating space for up to 75 students. Other phases of the project include a community center with activities for all ages, plus a community gym.
"Child care in The Valley has always been challenging, but in recent times it's gotten even harder," said Ashley Woods, community fund board chair. "We are excited to support Moie Moulton and her NOW staff in this project. They have a modern way of looking at the whole child, a unique approach toward staff enrichment, and ideas about community connectivity that really suit The Valley," Woods added.
INCREASE IN LOCAL CARE
According to Bright Futures, a Vermont state-run child care information system, there are currently only 17 slots available for infant child care in The Valley and 26 spots for toddler child care. Let’s Grow Kids, a Vermont child advocacy nonprofit, printed in their Stalled at the Start publication that only three out of five of Vermont’s under 6 population have access to licensed care. NOW’s expansion will result in a 50% increase in local care capacity as it will provide eight more infant spots and 15 toddler spots. With the Harwood Unified Union School District reopening plans calling for four days of remote learning, there’s increased pressure on existing child care openings.
The Small Dog property includes 10,688 square feet in the main building and 4,800 square feet in the warehouse, plus solar panels on 10 acres adjacent to the Mad Path.
“The main building is in great shape, we have been able to use it this summer for camp and are currently using it to serve the families by offering preK through second-grade child care pods. When school starts and the schedule is more predictable, we will hire more staff and add third- through sixth-grade pods,” said Moie Moulton, executive director of NOW. NOW’s post-COVID plans are to continue after school care and preschool programming in Moretown Elementary as it expands infant and toddler care in the Small Dog building.
Moulton developed and led a very successful preK-6 child care program at the Moretown Elementary School known as Moretown Education Community for All (MECA). That program lost its home when COVID-19 closed local schools this spring.
NOW staff is working on plans to raise funds to purchase the building and will then work on a capital campaign to renovate the building. Russ Bennett of NorthLand Design, Waitsfield, estimates a need for $1.5 million of renovations to get the best and highest use from the property.
The Mad River Valley Community Fund has been in operation for 30 years as an organization that helps families directly with financial assistance in trying times. Recognizing that many financial obstacles in the Mad River Valley are made more difficult by the lack of child care, high cost of housing and difficulties around transportation, the MRVCF board has begun to look for opportunities to help foster solutions in these areas as well as continuing with its traditional grant giving. In addition to its work with NOW, the community fund was instrumental in helping local child care providers secure the necessary supplies needed to reopen in July and this month when schools open. Items like hand sanitizer, gloves, face shields and other personal protective equipment were secured through bulk buys.
“The Valley is an amazing place to raise a family, but the lack of child care options available is really impactful to our local workforce, to our ability to recruite young families and the sustainability of our community systems,” said Rebecca Baruzzi, MRVCF program manager.
To learn more about the MRVCF, contact Baruzzi at 802-461-6241. To learn more about NOW contact Catrina Brackett, office administrator, at 802-917-3038