Lexington child care team, FUMC seek to combine coordinator and assistant roles

The First United Methodist Church has become the fiscal agent of the Lexington child care group. With funds coming in from Communities for Kids, the group will be able to hire a coordinator.

LEXINGTON — The group of volunteers and Nebraska Children and Families Foundation members who have been meeting since June to address the ongoing child care need in Lexington now have a fiscal agent in the First United Methodist Church.

Now the two groups are seeking to combine a coordinator and assistant role for the two into one position.

After meeting for around 9 months, the Lexington child care team is looking to hire a coordinator to head up the effort to organize and direct the addition of more child care options in Lexington, as well as supporting the existing child care providers.

The group, which met on Thursday, Feb. 13, now has a fiscal agent in the First United Methodist Church, which was announced in late January. The FUMC will now handle the finances for the group, as well as submitting budgets and work plans to Nebraska Families and Children, said Shonna Werth, Assistant Vice President, Early Childhood Programs with Nebraska Children and Families.

The church is also seeking an assistant in their office and the two are looking to combine the two positions, assistant and coordinator, into one.

The position would require flexibility, as any hire would have to meet both the child care coordinator responsibilities as well as those of the church office.

The duties on the child care side would require building and maintaining relationships with current, past and prospective child care providers, regional education service units, public and private schools, faith based leaders, local employers and fund raising committees.

They would also have to research and collect data, coordinate with local child programs, develop and distribute educational materials, coordinate meetings, develop and manage a budget, grant writing, be a quality child care advocate, etc.

In the dual position, they would also be an assistant in the FUMC office, handling calls, emails, and other office organization tasks.

To get a better idea of what would be asked of a child care coordinator, a video conference was held with the Boone County Communities for Kids coordinator, Lindsey Jarecki, who spoke about her time in the position.

Jarecki said Boone County also had a lack of child care options, there was an 80 child gap, and a group of volunteers had been meeting to address the issue. She was hired as coordinator and for some time researched and collected data for the group.

Their first step was to begin an after school program for students. It became apparent a center was needed and Jarecki did the leg work to help coordinate efforts to build a child care center which will be named Boone Beginnings. At the moment the group is waiting for bids for the project.

There were changes to the initial volunteer group as well; a formal board of directors was established, with different subcommittees focusing on specific needs.

“It evolves the more you look into it,” Jarecki said of addressing the child care need.

The early skills Jarecki needed to be successful, she told the group, included comfort in cold calling people, having good engagement and communication skills, fundraising, as well as the ability to give presentations to different groups of varying size.

“They must be flexible,” Jarecki told the group, “They need to be willing to try new things.”

The Boone County effort was aided when they joined with the Community for Kids wing of Nebraska Children and Families, Jarecki said the process was made far easier, having access to their resources.

Engaging with lawmakers and state representatives was also a key part of the effort being more successful, Jarecki said.

One final thing Jarecki left the group with was, “Building relationships is so important.”

After the video conference, Werth said Nicole Hetz with the Gothenburg Early Childhood Learning Collation, GECLC, is a great person to contact.

Hetz is part of a joint effort between Nebraska Children and Families and the GECLC to hold service array days across the county, finding what services are needed to support families and children, with quality child care being a part of the discussion.

A Lexington service array date is Thursday, Feb. 25 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Central Community College. Cozad’s date is March 26 at the Wilson Public Library.

Werth said Senator Matt Williams is aware of the efforts in Dawson County. “He truly supports early care initiatives,” she added.

The group came to the decision to spend $3,000 of their allotted budget on hiring a coordinator/assistant as soon as possible, with the understanding to reconsider the marriage of the two positions if hiring efforts don’t pan out.

“Recruiting staff is tough if there are not available child care spots,” Werth said, “We need to think outside the box on how quality child care fits into Lexington.”

Werth also made the point the group, and a future coordinator, should make an effort to support the providers who are already here in the community.

The next meeting of the group will be Tuesday, March 24 at 12 p.m. and will be held at the First United Methodist Church in Fellowship Hall, located at 201 E. 8th St. The meetings are open to anyone with an interest in the child care issue of the community.

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