WATERLOO — Friendship Village spent the past 50 years helping senior citizens enjoy their golden years.
But a new project under construction on the Waterloo retirement community’s campus is focused on helping those at the opposite end of the generational spectrum.
It Takes A Village Childcare, expected to open in July at West Ninth Street and Park Lane, will provide 24-hour child care for up to 105 children ages 5 and younger.
Friendship Village President and CEO Lisa Gates said the project will benefit the retirement community’s employees, residents and an entire Cedar Valley now struggling with an identified shortage of child care.
“This has been a dream I’ve had for about 15 years,” said Gates, who got the idea after visiting a similar facility in southern Iowa. “I really saw the benefits for both generations.”
It Takes A Village Childcare will have a scheduled regular interaction between the children and seniors living at Friendship Village.
Sherry Turner, director of compliance and education, noted studies have shown benefits to having the two generations mingle. Seniors get more physical and mental activity from the interaction.
“It gives them purpose,” Turner said. “There’s other facilities that have done it, and it’s proven to be a good addition to senior communities.”
The child care facility also makes good business sense to Friendship Village, which is among employers competing to attract and retain a work force.
“How do we keep good employees and how do we attract those employees?” Gates said. “I knew (15 years ago) that our staff was having difficulty finding child care or couldn’t come to work when they have a sick kid at home.
“Many people have gone out of the work force because there is no place for their children,” she added.
It Takes A Village Childcare is expected to have a sick room and will provide care during all three shifts. Approximately half the child care spots are expected to be used by Friendship Village employees with the rest open to the community at large.
Jay Nardini, who chairs the Friendship Village board, said he was on board with the project from the start.
“When Lisa raised the possibility I immediately thought it was a great idea, not only for the community because of the lack of child care that we have, but also for the employees,” he said.
Nardini is also president of the Hawkeye Community College board of trustees, which is tackling similar issues with the opening of a 56-spot child care center in the new downtown Van G. Miller Adult Learning Center.
“Child care needs to be convenient and needs to be affordable,” he said.
The 7,000-square-foot building is expected to cost approximately $900,000 and is being built on land Friendship Village already owned. The Friendship Village Foundation granted $300,000 for the project, and additional grants are being sought to help defray the cost.
Mayor Quentin Hart and the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance and Chamber ambassadors gathered on the site Wednesday to celebrate the start of the project.
“Oftentimes we hear people that talk about all the problems we have,” Hart said. “How sensational it is to see a barrier and then work to address that barrier.”
The child care center is part of the excitement surrounding Friendship Village this year.
Friends of Faith Retirement Homes Inc., which opened Friendship Village in 1968, is hoping in 2019 to begin the first phase of a $70 million project to reconstruct its original independent living apartments and skilled nursing center. The start date depends on the number of units pre-sold.
It Takes A Village Childcare is accepting employment applications at the 600 Park Lane office. Questions about daycare openings can be made by calling 291-8110.