New nonprofit plans to establish affordable child care center | ParkRecord.com

New nonprofit plans to establish affordable child care center

Nan Chalat Noaker, The Park Record

Working parents who struggle to find affordable day care for their children will have a new option after the first of the year. In the competitive search, where many parents find themselves on waiting lists for pricey programs, this is welcome news.

PC Tots, the recently established nonprofit that won the Park City Community Foundation’s inaugural $30,000 high-impact grant in July, has cleared a significant hurdle in its effort to establish affordable, enriching, multicultural child it has found a home.

The center, which could ultimately accommodate 80 children from infants to preschoolers, will be located on a portion of the first floor of the building located at 1850 Sidewinder Dr. in Prospector.

According to Scott Loomis, executive director of Mountainlands Community Housing Trust, one of the agencies helping to get the project started, finding a spot in Park City’s expensive real estate market was tough.

"We really struggled to find a spot that would meet all of the codes and state mandates for a child care center," he said, adding that the Prospector site which is near the commercial district where many of the center’s potential participants work and live, is "perfect."

The space is also larger than the organizers initially hoped to find. Carol Loomis, president of the PC Tots board, said the group is enormously grateful to the building’s owner for being receptive to housing the startup project.

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Now that PC Tots has secured a five-year lease with a five-year option to renew, the board is concentrating on hiring a director and retrofitting the space for babies and toddlers. That will include toddler-sized sinks and potties, an outdoor play yard, kitchen facilities, etc.

That’s where the Park City Community Foundation grant will come in handy.

"We didn’t want to spend a cent until we had secured the space," said Scott Loomis, adding that construction plans are being submitted to the city.

PC Tots was formed in response to several surveys, all of which indicated that child care was a critical need in Park City and Summit County.

According to Scott Loomis, the availability of affordable child care is an integral part of local businesses’ ability to recruit and retain employees. It is also critical to ensuring safe, educational options for local children.

Sister Mary Ann Pajakowsk, educational director for Holy Cross Ministries in Summit County, explained that older siblings are sometimes conscripted to care for younger family members which compromises their own educational opportunities and rarely offers a stimulating environment for the toddlers. She also pointed out that existing child care programs are only available in the daytime, and often close on holidays. But Park City’s service industry workers need flexible hours especially during busy holidays.

PC Tots organizers want to provide more than just affordable care. They want the center to attract families from all socio economic backgrounds in the hopes that they will form lasting friendships that the parents and children will carry over to the public school system.

To that end, Scott Loomis explained, a third of the students will pay full tuition (although at a lower rate that available in most local private day cares), a third will receive partial state aid and a third will receive locally raised scholarships. Their hope is to have a diverse enrollment that reflects the community’s multicultural makeup.

"These kids will know each other by the time they get to kindergarten," said Carol Loomis, adding that the center plans to offer a bilingual curriculum.

Holy Cross Ministries, which runs several educational programs in Park City, along with United Way, Intermountain Healthcare and the Summit County Library have all helped to establish PC Tots as an independent 501 (c3) nonprofit, and Loomis said winning the PCCF grant was a big morale boost. But both Carol and Scott Loomis admit the center will need ongoing financial support.

"But people are excited. Everybody gets it. They have kids. My son, for instance, pays more for two kids in day care than he pays for his mortgage, said Scott Loomis.

PC Tots will be participating for the first time this year in the community-wide Live PC Give PC fundraising event on Nov. 6.

And for parents who are interested in enrolling their children, ages newborn to five years old, when the center opens in January 2016, there is an online signup sheet posted on the PC Tots website, pctots.org