Energy Capital Cooperative Child Care open for business

North Dakota's first child care cooperative will help fill a desperate need for child care in Mercer County.
Energy Capital Cooperative Child Care's New Bethel Center opened for business on May 30.
Energy Capital Cooperative Child Care's New Bethel Center opened for business on May 30.

Energy Capital Cooperative Child Care’s (ECCCC) New Bethel Center opened its doors to Mercer County (ND) families in need of child care on May 30.

ECCCC was granted its license to operate from the state of North Dakota May 26.

“I asked our director when she wanted to open and she told me there were families who needed child care right away and employees who wanted to work, so we decided to just do it,” said Erin Huntimer, ECCCC board president, and project coordinations representative for Basin Electric, one of the eight partners that founded ECCCC.

Plans for a child care center in Mercer County began last May after a study showed a deficiency of nearly 300 child care spaces in the area. According to the study, this will increase by more than 20 percent by 2025. Knowing how the shortage was affecting its employees, Basin Electric set out to find a remedy to the problem – and do it quickly.

Before long, with the support of the North Dakota Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives, seven other area employers joined Basin Electric in forming a cooperative that would own and operate a child care facility in Hazen. The partners include:

In late December 2016, ECCCC purchased the New Bethel Congregational Church, which held its last service in Fall 2016. Except for the plumbing and electrical work, the building was remodeled completely by community volunteers.

“The location is just perfect,” Huntimer said. “Members of the church wanted to leave a lasting legacy in the community. The church placed great value in ministering to youth and families, so knowing the building will still be filled with kids and life makes this a win-win situation for everyone involved.”

At a recent open house showcasing the new child care center, Lorina Zuern, a 65-year member of the New Bethel Congregational Church, said, “I’m so glad this is here and that the church won’t just stand empty and deteriorate.”

The New Bethel Center child care facility will operate as a cooperative and families whose children attend the center and businesses who support it will be its members, determining the strategic direction and educational offerings, and overseeing the work of the director.

Some of its other features are below.

  • It is a licensed child care center with a capacity of 77 children ages infant to 12 years.
  • Its partners have guaranteed spots for their employees. The spots taken by employer parents are paid by those parents, while empty spots are paid for by the employer until they are filled or reassigned to other employers or the community.
  • It offers extended hours of operation to accommodate shift-working parents.
  • Weekly full-time rates range from $160-$175 depending on age. Daily, part-time, and shift-work friendly rates are also available.

Huntimer said she is amazed at how quickly the child care center came together, going from concept to completion in just one year.

“We would never have gotten this far this quickly without the generosity of our partners, several area businesses, and many community volunteers,” she said. “It’s been incredible to see the time, energy, and care that has gone into making this happen. It shows how desperately needed this is in the community. Now we’re just excited to watch it survive and thrive, and I have every bit of confidence it will.”

"We are very excited to open the doors at Energy Capital Cooperative Child Care," said Dana Santini, the center's director. "The staff really pulled together to put the finishing touches on the center and to create a fun, educational environment where kids will be able to play, learn, and grow. Opening day was exciting and went smoothly."

Now that the child care facility is up and running, Huntimer said it can serve as a model for other communities in North Dakota that are experiencing child care shortages.

For more information on the child care center or to inquire about openings, contact Santini at 701-748-3838 or energycapital@westriv.com.

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