Principles guide cooperatives. Concern for community is one of those principles. A fine example of this principle in action is Energy Capital Cooperative Child Care in Hazen, N.D. This child care co-op opened its doors in May of this year. It can provide quality daycare for up to 77 children and it is the first employer-assisted cooperative child care center in the state.
The idea for the child care co-op began when local businesses saw a desperate deficit in daycare options. Community leaders stepped in to come up with a solution. They considered a child care cooperative. They knew that if they could provide quality child care, they could keep valuable employees. But they needed help.
Fortunately, the Rural Electric and Telecommunications Development Center, guided them toward their goal. The center is a service offered by the North Dakota Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives (NDAREC). It is supported by both electric and telecom co-ops.
“NDAREC’s rural development center has leveraged more than $1 billion dollars in projects since it began in 1994,” says Josh Kramer, executive vice president and general manager, NDAREC. “We are proud of its success.”
Since the center spent several years researching co-op daycares and facilitating discussions across the state, they were a godsend to the group. Along with research, they offered facilitation and financial support.
“With grant funding, we were able to bring in an expert in childcare cooperatives to meet with parents in Hazen. The experience provided a level of confidence to encourage enrollments in the center,” says Lori Capouch, rural development director, NDAREC.
Area employer, Basin Electric Power Cooperative, led the group of seven local businesses to build support for the co-op. Employers quickly volunteered money, staff time and any equipment or special expertise to get the project moving.
Soon after they began discussions and incorporated as a non-profit in October 2016. Then, as if it were heaven sent, New Bethel Congregational Church sold their facility to the group at a charitable price. Both the church and the co-op wanted to continue New Bethel’s legacy of ministering to the community. The facility is named “New Bethel” to reflect this goodwill.
The business operates under the cooperative business model, where parents are the members. The initial board members are the founding partners. But as the co-op transitions through the start-up phase, parents will eventually become the board members.
Dana Santini, the child care co-op director, is supervised by the board. They will work to set the strategic direction and educational offerings for the center. The child care cooperative, like all co-ops, is guided by the seven cooperative principles.
If this co-op model proves successful, partners are already looking to form another cooperative in the nearby town of Beulah.