New Belding Daycare Brings Community Together Along the Way
From The Daily News | By Kelsey Lester | on August 16, 2022
With the city being considered a “daycare desert,” parents in Belding were left scrambling after Kids World Learning Center, a partner with Belding Area Schools, abruptly closed with only a few weeks of notice in May.
Many leaders in the school system thought this would be a great opportunity to start the district’s own daycare. Little Knights Kids Club officially opened on Aug. 10 after months of hard work in trying to get the daycare center opened as soon as possible.
Belding Superintendent Brent Noskey said although the Kids World closure was a scare at first, things eventually turned into a long-term solution. “We had many parents in panic mode this summer because there wasn’t that much notice,” said Noskey. “It’s a huge undertaking to start your own preschool from the district for sure. I’m just grateful that we’re able to sustain a program like this for the school. It’s nice to have it under the BAS umbrella.”
Although things have settled down now, there was quite a bit of worry at the start of this project. With the help of the community and organizations like the Belding Emergency Fund, the daycare persevered.
Once it was announced that Kids World would permanently close on June 10, the word spread quickly, soon finding its way to Terri Legg, executive director of United Way Ionia-Montcalm — an organization dedicated to helping with basic needs in local communities. To Legg, daycare is a basic need. "One of the great things about United Way is we work with health education and financial stability. So we’re really at the table of everything that’s happening in the community,” Legg said. “I had known that the daycare center had closed abruptly with little notice. We are in a daycare desert, both in Montcalm and Ionia counties.”
Around this same time, the Belding Emergency Fund, which operates to help those in emergencies, reached out to Legg for ideas on how to spend their remaining funds in the community after declaring they were dissolving the non-profit. Michele Krick, treasurer of the Belding Emergency Fund Board, worked with Legg on projects in the past, which drove the board to meet with United Way. After being founded in 1991, Belding Emergency Fund officials decided it was time to put the group to rest after a decrease in utility emergencies combined with the aging of the board. They were left with a large fund that was getting little use. With a like-minded mission, these two groups combined to become greater. Board members decided they’d “go out with a bang,” and use all remaining funds to help the Little Knights Kids Club.
Wanting to keep the dollars in Belding, the Belding Emergency Fund paid for everything the daycare needed — including new toys, $16,000 worth of playground equipment for toddlers, school supplies, utilities, chrome books and iPads, furniture, emergency systems and so much more — all the way down to paper towels.
Karen McFadden, president of the Belding Emergency Fund, said their goal was to meet needs. “We added Brooke (Linebaugh, director of Little Knights Kids Club) into our meeting and she indicated that there were many, many, many, many, many other unmet needs. And those unmet needs started to roll out even more significantly as we started adding a commitment of funds to her, wanting to get this up and running,” said McFadden.
Another board member, Judy Geiger, is glad the money is getting put to good use for a long time. “I’m thrilled. Since the emergency fund is dissolving, I just feel like it was the best thing for us to do with our money,” said Geiger. “Especially knowing that by third grade, if they can’t read, they’re not gonna. It’s just such a huge need.”
Krick agreed. “It’s a lasting legacy for the Belding Emergency Fund. It helps all of the community. The whole goal of the emergency fund is to help families within the Belding school district,” said Krick. “By partnering with the school, we know that it’s going to continue because they want to keep going.” With a greater future ahead for Belding children, things are off to a good start.
With many enrollments during open house night Aug. 8, the daycare had a waitlist of around 20 families by the end. Linebaugh said she couldn’t be happier with the way things have fallen into place. “I’m super excited. This is my dream. Having these funds has been saving us so much time and money. It’s amazing being able to support these families in more ways than we thought was even possible,” she said. “So many families were in crisis mode trying to figure out where they were going to send their kids. So for that side of it, it’s been really hard … but now being able to have our doors open is amazing because they’re super excited to be a part of this new thing to help us grow to be even bigger and better,” she added.
Noskey, who pitched Linebaugh for this position, said she was an amazing fit for what is to come. “She’s got a great plan, and we’re doing it the right way. You have the right person in charge,” he said. “We want to grow it eventually. We have some more space here.”
Funds are still being primarily supported by Belding Area Schools, however, the daycare should be able to break even soon with costs coming in from parents. With so many community organizations coming together to help, Legg said it was endearing watching everything unfold — especially because of the impact it will have on local families. “Well, I think when all the pieces come together, it helps to make a community more,” she said. “From an economic standpoint, having a strong community with all the different pieces, whether it’s a daycare, schools, religious-based, good work offerings and extracurriculars, it allows the community to flourish.”
To donate to help the funding of the Little Knights Kids Club daycare center, visit United Way’s website at secure.unitedway.org/a/donate (designate donations to the Little Knights Kids Club) or email Legg at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.