United Way is considering the Wesley United Methodist Church building as a potential child care center in Grand Forks

Nov. 12—GRAND FORKS — United Way of Grand Forks, East Grand Forks and Area is considering the former Wesley United Methodist Church building as a potential location for a daycare center, though plans are still in their infancy.

Executive Director Heather Novak said a letter of intent has yet to be signed. If this happens, there will be up to 120 days of due diligence, which will provide an opportunity to analyze the extent of the repairs needed and for United Way to “really do our research and make sure we get into a good building and that we can financially fund that building,” Novak said.

If the repairs to the building are not too extensive and expensive, a deed contract will be signed, which means United Way will pay the purchase price of the building. Currently, the building is owned by the South Dakota-based Wesley United Conference.

To help pay for the necessary work, United Way will be launching a fundraising campaign and working on grants for these project costs. Novak said it was already known that the building’s HVAC system will need to be updated because there is no air conditioning in the east part of the building.

“So with updates like that, we’re going to have to do a fundraising campaign and apply for grants to raise money for these things,” Novak said. “Depending on the renovation costs, it will depend on whether we go ahead with having a real deed contract.”

If the building doesn’t work, Novak said United Way will continue to look for other potential buildings in Grand Forks. Centraide has been looking for a building to convert into a daycare center since the spring of 2020. Finding a building was not easy.

Plans for the daycare began when United Way’s focus changed, beginning in fall 2019. At that time, the organization opted to offer direct services to families in the Greater Grand Forks area. rather than being an intermediary organization.

Child care, Novak said, is a barrier for many families United Way works with.

“We want our families to have long-term stability, but it’s very difficult for some of our families to find jobs if they don’t have daycare,” Novak said.

The availability of childcare services was also discussed in the region.

Town hall meetings

in East Grand Forks were held earlier in the year to gather solutions to help those in need of child care and providers in the community. Child care has also been listed as a priority by Grand Forks city officials.

United Way has worked to keep abreast of childcare gaps and what can be done to provide these services to families.

“We really want to focus on the Grand Forks area, trying to expand child care openings to allow people to have jobs and then also be able to provide some of the services that we already have in place with our families at daycare,” Novak said.

Some of these services include the Kidz Closet, which provides children with basic necessities, such as clothing, hygiene products and school supplies, free of charge.

The Families First program, which began in the fall of 2020, provides services to families with children under the age of 18 living at home. United Way social workers and case managers work with families on applications for child care assistance, housing applications, and securing documents such as birth certificates and Social Security cards. Additional services offered through the Families First program include emergency shelter, housing and utility assistance, and connecting families with community resources to establish long-term housing solutions.

United Way’s goal for the daycare is to provide care for children, ages infants to 12 years old. If the building is large enough, Novak said up to 135 spaces will be available with about 27 full-time staff. Another goal would be to become a preschool graduate in the future.

The daycare will be open to all families in the region and the rates will be comparable to those of other daycares. United Way will also provide scholarships and tuition assistance for families in need.

Novak reiterated that plans for a possible daycare center in the former Wesley United Methodist Church building are still in their infancy. The plan isn’t quite there, but the goal of the organization is focused.

“Our long-term goal is to provide comprehensive child care and services to families in the Grand Forks community. But again, we can only move as fast as the buildings allow us,” Novak said.

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