New center is here to alleviate shortage of local childcare options

Posted by Mitch on March 10, 2017 10:11 AM in Head Start, Migrant Head Start

The Learning Tree — a childcare center to meet the needs of all families.

By Deb Moldaschel, Editor (The Sleepy Eye Herald-Dispatch)

Kurk Kramer, Sleepy Eye EDA Coordinator, said the shortage of childcare options for Sleepy Eye families has been on his radar for several years. “Through my visits with local business people, and discussions with EDA Board members and parents in the community, it was clear that we needed more childcare options here,” he said.

The EDA began to study the issue, including asking for input from local home-based childcare providers. “The providers say we need it,” said Kramer. “They have waiting lists of families needing childcare.”

Why does the EDA care? A shortage of childcare becomes an issue of importance to the local economy, explained Kramer. Businesses need their employees to have childcare services available.

“It’s been a topic of conservation at the economic development workshops and meetings I go to for some time,” said Kramer. “It’s a problem across the state.”

Kramer approached Tri-Valley Opportunity Council, the community action agency that operates the seasonal migrant Head Start program in Sleepy Eye. He found that the Tri-Valley facility (located just south of the public school) had space available to add a childcare program. After many months of meetings and paperwork, a community childcare center opened in the building in January.

The mission of Tri-Valley Opportunity Council, Inc. is to provide opportunities to improve the quality of life for people and communities with a focus on child and family programs.

Tara Morrison, Tri-Valley Program Area Manager, said the childcare center is not connected to the Head Start program in the building. “Childcare is another program we offer in Sleepy Eye—to meet a community need,” she explained. “The programs share a facility, but are operated separately.”

Center Manager, Patty Fernandez, said they have openings for children in all age groups: infant, six weeks to 15 months; toddler, 16 to 25 months; and preschool, three years to entry in kindergarten. Each group has a classroom and there is a playground in the backyard.

The center operates somewhat like a preschool. The care providers are all teachers (qualified under the Department of Human Services) and use the Creative Curriculum, with programming tailored for each age group.

“We are a Four Star Parent Aware rated program that prepares children for school,” said Fernandez. “We are here for everyone in the community.”

The childcare center offers two, three, and five day per week agreements. Open all weekdays, from 6:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., the only days the center is closed are federal holidays and Christmas week. “We always have staff here: there are no vacation-type closures,” said Fernandez.

Cost for care is the standard rate that the county pays for their clients in other center-based childcare programs.

Both women agreed that the center needs a real name, not just plain “childcare center,” but just hadn’t thought of one. A last minute phone call from Fernandez brought good news. “We have a name,” she said. “The Learning Tree.”

For more information on The Learning Tree, contact Fernandez at 794-7911.


Child Care in Crookston – Tri-Valley gets $51K from state

Posted by Mitch on March 2, 2017 1:55 PM in Uncategorized

By Mike Christopherson (Crookston Daily Times)

Momentum toward easing a shortage of licensed child care slots in Crookston continues to build, with word that Tri-Valley Opportunity Council receiving a $51,500 child care grant from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) coming on the heels of last week’s news that a daycare center is being sought in the former Church of Christ building at the corner of Fisher Avenue and North Front Street.

In all, DEED awarded $500,000 to eight agencies that will use the money in increase the number of child care providers in their communities.

City Administrator Shannon Stassen in late 2016 indicated in late 2016 that Tri-Valley was pursuing the grant, and the Crookston City Council agreed to come up with the necessary local match. Tri-Valley President/CEO Jason Carlson said the agency sought $59,000. “So we did pretty well,” considering that only $500,000 was available statewide, he added.

But, since he’s still trying to determine what portion of Tri-Valley’s request was not funded, Carlson said he hasn’t wanted to provide many details as to what specific next steps will be taken. The next steps in Crookston will be to form an advisory committee that will include representatives from the City, Child Care Aware, Head Start, and the Crookston Early Childhood Initiative.

“That group will help decide how to distribute the mini-grants and any help for a center-based operation,” Carlson explained. “We are excited to help expand access to quality child care in Crookston.”

More Video: The Crookston High School junior high and senior high bands perform together on stage at Monday’s “All Bands on Deck” concert.

The project description included in the executive summary of Tri-Valley’s grant application states:

“The Crookston project seeks to add 140 child care spaces in the community, growing the child care slots by 40 percent. The project will engage quality caregiving practices through training, technical assistance, and resources. TVOC and its partners believe that increasing the number of spaces is important, but ensuring that these spaces are providing quality services is equally important. In order to accomplish this hefty goal, funds are needed for startup and expansion of family child care providers and child care centers. This project would offer mini grants for new and existing providers who would like to add or increase the number of infant and/or toddler spaces available. Providers could use this mini grant funding for facility modifications to meet licensing, toys, equipment, egress, fencing, safety items, curriculum, or other needs approved by Child Care Aware. Project dollars would also be used for training caregivers to meet start up requirements.”

Carlson added that news of a new day care center being planned in the former church is more good news on the child care front. “A new center is absolutely something this grant will support, assuming their plans include the quality we are striving for in the community,” he said.

The city council approved a conditional use permit request for the day care center in February. Building Official Matt Johnson told the Times at the time that the building could potentially accommodate around 30 children.

Carlson noted that Tracey Sundeen from Head Start and Maureen Hams from Child Care Aware put the grant proposal together, along with their staffs. They collected input fro the City and Crookston ECI in putting it together, he said. “So it really was a collaborative effort,” Carlson said.


Community Members Invited to Learn More About Rewriting the Rural Narrative

Posted by Mitch on January 19, 2017 3:19 PM in Uncategorized

Rewriting-the-Rural-Narrative-Flyer-011117-mediaThe Northwest Minnesota Council of Collaboratives and Tri-Valley Opportunity Council, Inc., are excited to sponsor a free-of-charge community event, coming to Thief River Falls and Crookston in February.

Rewriting the Rural Narrative: the “Brain Gain” of Rural America is a presentation featuring Ben Winchester (University of Minnesota Extension Research Fellow) and Christopher Ingraham (Washington Post).

People often lament a brain drain in rural Minnesota—the loss of 18-25 year-olds who leave their small home towns after high school. But there is also an in-migration to these towns of 30-49 year-old adults and their young children. In many cases, those moving into rural communities offset, or surpass, the numbers of those moving away. This, says Extension research fellow Ben Winchester, is a brain gain. This is hopeful news for rural Minnesota. But the trend must be sustained.

Two opportunities to take part in the presentation are available. Thief River Falls will host the event on Tuesday, February 7 from 6:30 – 8:30 pm at the Ralph Engelstad Arena (Imperial Room). Crookston will host the event on Wednesday, February 8 from 10 am – 12 pm at the Crookston Inn (Conference Room).The presentation is open to the public and is free of charge.

To learn more about the research presented, please visit or

Making a difference together in the life of a child

Posted by Mitch on January 13, 2017 3:18 PM in Senior Programs

Bev Holm (left) and Barb Holum (right) are Foster Grandparent volunteers at the Badger school. Sponsored by the Tri-Valley Opportunity Council, Crookston, the Grandparent program “provides opportunities for volunteers to work with one of our most valuable resources- today’s children and youth”. (submitted photo)

Bev Holm (left) and Barb Holum (right) are Foster Grandparent volunteers at the Badger school. Sponsored by the Tri-Valley Opportunity Council, Crookston, the Grandparent program “provides opportunities for volunteers to work with one of our most valuable resources- today’s children and youth”. (submitted photo)

(Article courtesy of The Tribune) – The Badger school currently has two local ladies involved in the Foster Grandparent program.  Founded in 1965, it is one of several programs sponsored by the Tri-Valley Opportunity Council, Inc., a non-profit community action agency.

Barb Holum of Badger, Minn.,  became involved with the Foster Grandparent program at the Badger School in January 2015.

What sparked Barb’s interest  in becoming involved in the foster grandparent program?

“I wanted to help the school make a difference in the kids’ lives,” she commented.  “The staff is awesome and very concerned for their students but with the curriculum that has to be taught these days they are stressed for time. I hoped to help take a little stress off them and give their students some one on-one-time.” more »

Help is Available for Home Heating Costs

Posted by Mitch on December 15, 2016 3:17 PM in Uncategorized

Keep-Well-Keep-WarmApplications for the 2017 Energy Assistance Program are currently being taken by Tri-Valley Opportunity Council, Inc.

If you feel you may be eligible, either write to Tri-Valley Energy Assistance Programs at 1407 Erskine Street, Crookston, MN 56716 or call 218-281-9080 or 1-866-264-3729 and an application will be mailed to you. You may also access the energy assistance application online at Households may apply only once during the program year of Oct. 1, 2016 to May 31, 2017.

Energy Assistance eligibility is based upon household income and household size. Assets are no longer counted for this program. Both homeowners and renters may be eligible. Households who live in subsidized housing but pay either heat or electric costs may also qualify. Subsidized housing residents who have both heat and electric costs included in their rent do not qualify for energy assistance. more »

‘Saved by the Belt’ given after bus crash

Posted by Mitch on December 13, 2016 3:16 PM in Head Start, Migrant Head Start

Children that were on a school bus during a July, 2015 head-on collision on Hwy. 212 were presented with the ‘Saved by the Belt’ awards on November 9, 2016 to honor how they were kept safe by their seatbelts.

Children that were on a school bus during a July, 2015 head-on collision on Hwy. 212 were presented with the ‘Saved by the Belt’ awards on November 9, 2016 to honor how they were kept safe by their seatbelts.

By Caitlyn Mahlum (News Editor, Advocate Tribune)

Thanks to a simple device located in all modern day vehicles, a group of local children were able to walk away from a frightful crash with minimal injuries.

On July 13, 2015 a Tri-Valley Opportunity Council school bus was traveling eastbound on Highway 212 when another vehicle struck the bus. Anthony Blue, 33, of Granite Falls, was driving the 2014 Kia westbound on U.S. 212 around 7 a.m. near the scenic lookout wayside stop when he crossed the centerline and struck the eastbound, 2010 IC school bus driven by Michelle Groen, 52, of Danube. The school bus was operated by the Tri-Valley Opportunity Council, which operates a Migrant Head Start school in Danube. more »

Tri-Valley Foster Grandparents Celebrate a Year of Volunteering

Posted by Mitch on December 8, 2016 3:15 PM in Senior Programs

Our-Saviors-Children-Singing-mediaThe Tri-Valley Foster Grandparents celebrated a year of volunteering at their Christmas Party on Friday, December 2. The event was held at Trinity Lutheran Church in Crookston.

The event was kicked off with a game called “What’s Your Elf Name”. That was followed by entertainment from the kindergarten through 4th graders from Our Savior Lutheran School. The children got everyone in the holiday spirit by singing Christmas songs. Prior to brunch, bingo was played which is always a big hit.

The Foster Grandparents enjoyed a brunch of egg bake and muffins. Following brunch, the group joined together and sang some of their favorite Christmas carols.

The event was enjoyed by all of the Foster Grandparents!

Available Childcare… A Growing Concern in Our Communities

Posted by Mitch on November 30, 2016 3:12 PM in Uncategorized

033Although the cost of childcare garners most of the attention from the media, did you know that there is a severe lack of licensed childcare providers in Northwestern Minnesota? This lack of childcare puts extreme stress on families, potential employees, employers, and our communities in general.

So what are the numbers? Northwestern Minnesota has a licensed childcare capacity of 7,116 with a 2,623 shortfall with a critical shortage in infant care. A 37% growth in capacity is needed to fill the shortfall. A major cause of this shortfall is that the numbers and capacity of family providers has dropped by more than 25% since 2006. (MN Dept. of Human Services; U.S. Census Bureau)

Quality childcare ranked third in “Community Needs” on the 2016 Tri-Valley Community Needs Assessment Survey. The survey collects data from Tri-Valley’s primary service area of west Marshall, west Polk, and Norman counties. In Crookston alone, there are 266 children aged birth to three years old. Unfortunately, there are only 116 licensed spaces for that age group. That leaves 150 children birth to three years at home with a parent or with an unlicensed childcare provider such as a family member or a friend.

Continued discussion is needed now more than ever to start looking for possible solutions to this potential crisis. If you would like to join the childcare conversation, have questions about childcare in our communities, or would like more information on becoming a licensed childcare provider, please contact Maureen Hams (Tri-Valley Community Assistance Program Director) at 1-800-543-7382.

Minnesota Housing Board Approves Agassiz Townhomes Low-Income Housing Tax Credit Application

Posted by Mitch on October 19, 2016 3:11 PM in Uncategorized

Agassiz-Townhomes-Drawing-e1476906907736Minnesota Housing, Crookston Housing & Economic Development Authority (CHEDA), the City of Crookston, and Tri-Valley Opportunity Council, Inc., announced today that the Minnesota Housing board has approved the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit application for Agassiz Townhomes in Crookston. Agassiz Townhomes will serve Crookston’s lower income workforce, addressing a need of many employers and allowing more workers to live in the community. more »

Tri-Valley Foster Grandparent Program Holds Recognition Luncheon

Posted by Mitch on October 13, 2016 3:10 PM in Senior Programs

(L-R) Sharon Baity, Ron Evans and Adeline Woinarowicz

(L-R) Sharon Baity, Ron Evans and Adeline Woinarowicz

Tri-Valley Opportunity Council, Inc. Foster Grandparent Program held its annual recognition luncheon at the Crookston Eagles Club on Wednesday, October 5. Heidi Simmons, Senior Programs Director began the event by welcoming the Foster Grandparents and guests to the banquet. Jason Carlson, Tri-Valley’s CEO then thanked all of the volunteers for the difference they are making in the lives of others in our communities. more »

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