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Sunflower Child Development Center Innovates to Meet Need

May 28, 2021

Sunflower Child Development Center has been growing with Decorah and the surrounding community for 45 years, offering care for children six weeks to 12 years old. Now, the center is positioning itself to meet the ongoing critical demand for child care services by launching a capital campaign to build a new center. According to Merlene Brown, retired Sunflower director and current financial manager, the new Sunflower Child Development and Discovery Center will increase capacity from 123 to 220 children, which is desperately needed to alleviate a current waitlist of 140 children. “There’s a lot of things the new center provides to the community. There’s the increase in available child care slots, there’s the Discovery Center, which will add a unique community aspect, and there’s also an economic impact. The whole region needs so many more child care spots to help businesses recruit employees.”

The project has benefited from Sunflower’s partnership with the Winneshiek County Community Foundation, a CFNEIA affiliate. The center established a special project fund with the Foundation to assist in campaign fundraising and received a $10,000 grant.

The funding will help bring the innovative Discovery Center to life, which will provide children of the center access to six STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) learning areas and creates an additional income stream by being open to the public. The organization hopes the model will provide resources to recruit and retain quality employees by offering better wages and benefits not typically seen in the field. “Our vision is that this could be a model for other small communities,” said Merlene.

This story is part of our 2020 Impact Report.