Community members of all ages gathered Thursday to celebrate a big advancement in early childhood care and services that will be available to Lawrence families.
The Community Children’s Center hopes to open its Early Childhood Community Center (ECCC) during late fall 2024. Aimed at being accessible and affordable to community members, the ECCC will provide services at all times and tuition will be set on a sliding scale.
Kim Polson, executive director of the Community Children’s Center, said that a cross-sector collaborative work group of more than 30 people representing more than 20 organizations in 2021 began having conversations to explore what an early childhood community center looks like for Douglas County.
She said the group discovered that they needed to strengthen the entire early childhood system, improve the availability of child care for families and support the workforce.
Gov. Laura Kelly spoke at the ceremony.
“You may have heard me say that the North Star of my second term is making Kansas the best place in the country to raise a family,” Kelly said. “Expanding access to multipurpose community facilities like this one is a fundamental part of that commitment.”
She said providing child care doesn’t just benefit families, but is also a vital component of workforce development and economic growth.
“We are experiencing unprecedented levels of economic growth and job creation here in Kansas, and that’s great news,” Kelly said. “But unfortunately, not everyone who wants to take advantage of these new work opportunities is able to — not because there aren’t enough jobs, but because there’s not enough affordable child care.”
Kelly has also been advocating for the state to expand Medicaid and extend health insurance to child care workers to keep them in the workforce and caring for kids.
Will Averill, director of development and communications, introduced the organization’s new logo, designed by Billy Pilgrim. Averill joked that it took him about a month to get the order of the three C’s in the Community Children’s Center’s name down.
“The playful arrangement of the typography that you’ll see in the new logo is more than just a visual treat. It focuses the eye to give the name a more memorable flow,” he said. “And as we embrace this new visual identity, let it serve as a constant reminder of our commitment to providing a safe, inclusive and enriching environment for all the children and families in our community.
A 2022 grant from the county, utilizing funds from the American Rescue Plan Act, launched the ECCC. The Kansas Children’s Cabinet and Trust Fund then granted the Community Children’s Center $4.9 million in state funding.
After adults and kids took turns digging into piles of dirt with shovels, folks in attendance had a chance to tour the under-construction facility.
Learn more about the CCC on its website, communitychildrenks.org.
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— Reporter Mackenzie Clark contributed to this post.