Rural day care problem solved cooperatively

“Grim” is how working parents Jon and Laura Dronen describe the day care ­situation in Hazen, North Dakota. Ever since the couple’s long-time baby­sitter retired in May 2016, the parents of two children under age eight have had four different providers, including a cousin they flew in from Oklahoma.

Jon, a Procurement Operations Administrator at the Hazen office of Basin Electric Power Cooperative said, “We had heard about the shortage of day care but we didn’t know it was this bad.”

“It got to the point where I brought this forward to my boss,” added Laura, an Engineering Supervisor at Dakota Gasification Co., a Basin Electric subsidiary. “I said, ‘I might have to go part-time or quit.’ ”

But help will soon be on the way. The Dronens, Basin Electric, other parents and businesses are part of the solution. For the past few months, they have helped renovate an old church to open it this month as the Energy Capital Cooperative Child Care.

The co-op is the creation of Basin Electric/Dakota Gasification and seven other companies with large numbers of employees looking for safe, reliable and quality care for their babies, toddlers and school-age children.

Erin Huntimer, a Project Coordinations Representative at the generation and transmission cooperative, recognized that parents were “­jumping through flaming hoops” to find child care. “I thought, ‘Why not take a ­cooperative approach? Let’s see if we can’t use the same methods that brought electricity and telephone service to this part of the country to bring day care, too.’ ”

Basin Electric hopes this will help the community and the G&T retain and recruit employees. Who knows, maybe this cooperative day care idea will catch on in other rural areas of the country.

Source: NRECA, Victoria A. Rocha

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