‘There is a need’; Switchpoint breaks ground for 24/7 child care facility

ST. GEORGE — The Switchpoint Community Resource Center is moving in to fill the child care needs of parents who work odd hours, especially those doing their best to climb out of poverty. Ground was broken on Wednesday for the Stepping Stones child care facility in St. George, which will provide 24-hour child care services seven days a week.

A groundbreaking ceremony was held for the incoming Stepping Stones child care facility created by the Switchpoint Community Resource Center, St. George, Utah, Oct. 14, 2020 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

“We know these families need support,” Carol Hollowell, Switchpoint’s executive director, said during the groundbreaking.

Stepping Stones, at 37 S. 200 East in St. George, will be a 24/7 child care facility for low-income families where parents work odd or late hours like swing and graveyard shifts. It also provides a way for parents who may have been unable to take better-paying jobs because the hours conflicted with looking after young children.

“We’re asking them to be self-sufficient and they can’t do that if they have little children at home that they are worried about,” Hollowell said.

A Montessori school once stood at this location and was subsequently torn down after Switchpoint bought the property.

“We could not have found somewhere better for 24/7 child care than here,” Hollowell said.

A lot in downtown St. George on 200 East where the Stepping Stones child care facility broke ground Oct. 14, 2020, St. George, Utah, Oct. 14, 2020 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

The concept of a 24/7 child care facility was originally brought up in Washington County’s inter-generational poverty committee, which Switchpoint is a part of, Hollowell said.

“We’ve been talking about this for three years, and it was, ‘Yeah, we need this. The clients need this,’” Hollowell said, adding that once was it learned there wasn’t such a facility around, she and others at Switchpoint decided to create one.

The idea was presented to the Social Investor’s Forum of the Community Foundation of Utah two years ago where Switchpoint won a $100,000 loan. That money went toward the purchase of the property in downtown St. George.

“This is fantastic, I know there is a need,” St. George Mayor Jon Pike said at Wednesday’s groundbreaking.

“We have many in the community who would really benefit from having access to quality and affordable child care,” Pike said, adding the city of St. George was glad to have partnered with Switchpoint on many of its ventures aimed at reducing poverty and homeless in the community.

St. George Mayor Jon Pike and Carol Hollowell, Switchpoint’s executive director, at the groundbreaking for the Stepping Stones child care facility, St. George, Utah, Oct. 14, 2020 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

According to Switchpoint, monthly child care costs can run between $500 to $1,000, putting it out of range for those families the Stepping Stones facility will be able to help once open.

It is also estimated that 300 child care vouchers go unused due to there either being no openings in existing child care facilities, or no services offered in evenings,  overnight or weekends as Stepping Stones will be able to, Hollowell said.

Tracy Dutson, project manager for the construction phase of Stepping Stones, said the day care facility will consist of a single-story building and a two-story building connected by a breezeway. The one-story building will offer classrooms and areas where the children will be cared for, while the two-building will house the administrative part of the facility and a nursery where infants and younger children will be looked after.

Altogether, Dutson estimated that the facility will cover around 9,000 square feet. He also estimated the cost of the project, including the purchase of the property, to be around $2 million.

It is hoped the actual groundbreaking initiating construction on the child care facility will happen in about five weeks, Dutson said, adding he thinks it will take about eight months to build once construction gets underway.

Dutson added the new child care facility isn’t being subsidized but is being funded through grant-loans Switchpoint has secured for the project, though Hollowell said they may likely do some fundraising along the way. Paying back the loans, which Dutson compared to a mortgage, will be done through money earned through the child care facility.

A rendering of what the Stepping Stones childcare facility will that broke ground in mid-October, St. George, Utah, Oct. 13, 2020 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

While the facility will be focused on low-income families, Dutson and Hollowell said it will be able to cater to the needs of others at market prices as well.

“It’s not just for the lower-income community,” Dutson said. “I think our community as a whole will benefit from this. There’s nothing else that’s open 24 hours a day.”

Like Switchpoint’s other business ventures, like its thrift store, pet day care and small engine repair shop, Stepping Stones is a place that will supply both training for Switchpoint clients as well as provide funding for the community resource center.

Stepping Stones is expected to hire around 30 people with a starting wage of $14 an hour with benefits, Hollowell said.

“I look at this as a very positive addition for the community,” she said.

Prices for the facility’s child care services have not yet been finalized but will be posted to Switchpoint’s website once those rates have been established.

“It will be the most affordable child care in town,” Hollowell said.

Switchpoint is a nonprofit, 84-bed shelter and resource center for homeless and impoverished individuals, that focuses on helping people find housing and achieving self-sufficiency.

Additional services Switchpoint offers the community include case management, a soup kitchen and food pantry.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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