BERTRAND, Neb. — The Little Vikings Daycare is now in Bertrand to address the childcare shortages in the town. It is dual-licensed to the only daycare in Bertrand, Aubriel's Daycare, an in-home daycare.
“Aubriel Stagemeyer also licensed this facility because we have no daycare, we have so many kids in need of childcare and parents who are not able to work because of that or have to take kids from town to town,” said Melissa Nevarez, coordinator of the Bertrand Area Communities for Kids (C4K). “Some of our members even take their kids to Holdrege, Lexington, Loomis, Elwood, it’s just a hassle.”
Little Vikings Daycare is not operating just yet. Nevarez said everything is ready for the facility to open, all inspections are done, they are just waiting for the state of Nebraska to issue the license.
To help with the childcare shortage, a group of community member came together and founded the Bertrand Area C4K. The group is formed mostly of moms from the area and the school’s superintendent.
“He knew childcare was a problem,” Nevarez said. “He had teachers who couldn’t go to work because of daycare.”
Through the Bertrand Area C4K, they received state grants to make the daycare a reality. They receive the funds in 2022 and had until April 2023 to use the money.
“It took us a little bit,” Nevarez said. “We initially had a goal for a [childcare] center, but we had to step back from that because our town couldn’t handle a center. We could have definitely filled it with kids, staffing is the issue, and there’s also a lot of regulations for licensing.”
Nevarez said the group received help from the South Central Economic Development District (SCEDD) in Holdrege. The SCEDD helped with the grants and bookkeeping.
“They did an amazing job in helping us stay organized and pave the way,” Nevarez said.
Little Vikings Daycare is located at the Bertrand United Methodist Church. It is licensed as a home daycare for up to 10 to 12 kids, from six weeks to nine years old. Aubriel's Daycare can serve about 8 kids. According to the Bertrand C4K, about 50 children in town need childcare services. Therefore even with the opening of Little Vikings the childcare need is still ongoing.
Nevarez further explained that because Little Vikings is licensed as a home-daycare, they can’t hire more staff than the ones they currently have.
“Our plan is actually to open another [daycare] home,” Nevarez said. “If anybody would like to have a daycare at their home, they can contact us.”
NTV News spoke with multiple Bertrand C4K members, mothers who said they truly understand the struggles of not having childcare available near them.
Nevarez said she had to quit her job three years ago due to not being able to find childcare in three different cities. This was after one of Bertrand’s childcare centers closed.
“Our community can’t grow unless we have childcare,” said Aryn Schwarz, Bertrand C4K member. “I own a salon and I do hair. Luckily we were able to get into Aubriel’s for daycare, but there are so many families in this community that just don’t have a place to take their kids, so they can’t work.”
Hilary Galusha is a member of the Bertrand C4K. She will be the head provider at the Little Vikings Daycare.
“It was hard [not having daycare around], I actually wanted to get a job, I’ve been a stay-home mom for eight years, my oldest is going to be nine, and I had no daycare for my son, so I had nowhere to go,” Galusha said.
She added that she has worked in daycares before and loves to work around kids.
Another Bertrand C4K member Michelle Watkins said she used to live in bigger cities, where she had more childcare opportunities.
“Now, [while living in Bertrand] I’ve been on waiting lists, I’m still on waiting lists in certain daycares, it’s crazy, and that’s why when we were introduced to this I was like ‘Yes! how can I help?’” Watkins said. “My mom had to watch my kids until I could get into daycare.”
She lives in Bertrand and works in Holdrege, and even though she gets to work from home sometimes, she still needs to take her kids to Holdrege to get childcare. Watkins said the opening of Little Vikings will help her family a lot since now they will have childcare services right in town.
“This is an amazing opportunity for us to help other families,” Watkins said. “We are not done, we have a need, we are going to try to do as much as we can, and help another provider set-up a new home,” Watkins said.
The Bertrand C4K is also looking to start an after-school program, for kids to have a safe and educational place to go while their parents are at work.
“We are very thankful for our community, for supporting us and being there for us,” Schwarz said. “It was a rough ride for us, we lost two coordinators, then gained Melissa, so it was kind of a rollercoaster but with the help our friends and community we were able to get it.”
“We need to thank the Methodist church here” Nevarez said. “It took us a long time to find a space, we couldn’t find that person who wanted a daycare in their home. We found this empty basement that has everything we need.”
“We want to grow Bertrand, we want to see young families here and continuing on building this community,” Watkins added.