Creating an oasis in a daycare desert

The west wing of the old Manilla school is in the process of being renovated into the Little Hawks Childcare Center. Photo by Dan Mundt

“Our goal is to help provide families in Manilla and surrounding communities with affordable, quality childcare,” said Katelyn Hodne, president of the Little Hawks Childcare Board.

Manilla is in the middle of a “childcare desert,” which is defined by the Center for American Progress (CAP) as “any census tract with more than 50 children under age 5 that contains either no childcare providers or so few options that there are more than three times as many children as licensed childcare slots.”

As part of an effort to develop a new childcare center in Manilla, the Little Hawks Childcare Board is putting on a fundraiser tomorrow (Saturday) night.

All proceeds will be used to renovate the west wing of the former Manilla school building, which will be the home of the new childcare center.

Hodne said the goal is to have the center open by August, but funding remains a struggle.

“We need to raise quite a bit of money, still,” she said.

The Little Hawks Childcare Center Fundraiser begins with a steak dinner at 5:30 p.m. Saturday at Manilla Memorial Hall, 550 Main Street in Manilla.

“With the steak dinner you get a ribeye steak, cheesy potatoes, green bean casserole, pea salad, mac salad, a dinner role and dessert,” Hodne said.

A live auction, featuring items with Iowa, Iowa State University and University of Nebraska themes, will take place at 7 p.m.

A 10-person exercise class (led by Erinn Ahart), signs from Dirt Road Designs, of Manning, an antique mirror with earrings, an afghan for a dog, a Manilla Times basket of goodies and a large, customizable (with Iowa, ISU, Harley Davidson, Nebraska, Vikings, Cardinals or Broncos logos) circular saw blade will be up for auction.

“We’ll also have a 50/50 drawing where the winner will get 50 percent of the pot,” Hodne said, “and ‘heads or tails,’ were you can buy as many glow sticks as you want - and the last person in will get 50 percent of that pot, as well.”

From 8 p.m. to midnight, Felix & Fingers Dueling Pianos will entertain the audience.

During the intermission, local favorite Ridge Muhlbauer will perform.

“He sings and plays piano as well,” she said. “He was a hit last year.”

Hodne said Elevate Roofing, of Denison, had recently installed a new roof and efforts are now moving to renovating the interior of the school building.

A community fund drive raised more than $50,000 and grants and other fundraisers have also brought in significant amounts of cash – but the project is still in need of tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“We just recently hired a general contractor, so we don’t have a definite budget number, yet,” Hodne said.

“We’re always accepting donations from anybody that is willing and able. We’re a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, so donations can be written off of taxes.”

Tickets to the Saturday fundraiser are $35 per person and will be available at the door. A table for eight (and guaranteed seating with a group) may be reserved for $350.

For more information, contact Hodne at 712-579-0318.

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