SIOUX CENTER—Ownership is changing for the Early Childhood Center in Sioux Center.
The licensed child care facility will be changed to Apple Tree Early Child Center near the end of June after ownership transfers from Sioux Center Health to Aftershock Ventures LLC, the parent company of Apple Tree Preschool & Childcare.
“Sioux Center Health has been honored to serve the child care needs of our community for decades through the Early Childhood Center,” said Sioux Center Health CEO Cory Nelson. “The opportunity to work with Aftershock provides a new opportunity to expand child care services in our community at a time when those services are greatly needed.”
Apple Tree opened in Sioux City in 1984 and has two Sioux City locations. Through the investment group Aftershock Ventures, Apple Tree is affiliated with Building Blocks Preschool and Child Care, which has locations in Sergeant Bluff, N. Sioux City and Le Mars.
“Sioux Center is a growing community and is definitely an area where we saw potential to help serve the day care and preschool needs in the community,” said Dan Hiserote, managing member of Aftershock Ventures. “I have been impressed with the center and staff since the first time I picked up my grandson there several years ago.
“Sioux Center Health and others have created a great place for children. We will strive to build on what they have created to help serve more children in the Sioux Center area.”
Two of the three services within the Early Childhood Center at 1070 Seventh Ave. NE have been owned and operated by Sioux Center Health for more than 35 years. Those services are child care for children ages 0-12 and Active Learning Preschool, which provides preschool programming for 3-year-old children.
Early Head Start, under the governance of Mid-Sioux Opportunities Inc., also offers free early preschool for low to moderate income families within the facility.
Hiserote expects those services to remain similar, noting the current plan through the transition is to have the same age groups and similar programs.
“The only change we see more on the immediate horizon is we’re hoping to provide more options for older kids such as field trips and other experiences beyond the building,” Hiserote said. “That’s something we do at our other centers. There hasn’t been transportation available at the ECC to do that. We have a fleet of vehicles through our other centers, so we’re hoping to add transportation up here or bring some of our existing vehicles up as needed.”
Other changes may be made over time.
“As we’re continuously learning about the best ways to provide for children and support their development, nothing stays the same over time,” Hiserote said, “but we want to want to review operations with staff to see how we can come up with ideas that make the most sense for kids, parents and staff before bigger changes are made.”
A goal for the new ownership is shifting the image of the Early Childhood Center to being a community-focused child care center rather than it just being a service branch of the hospital.
“While community members outside of the hospital employment have utilized its services, there’s still that perception that ECC is just to support that organization. We want to change that to be a center for the whole community,” Hiserote said. “We’re thankful and excited for this opportunity provided by Sioux Center Health to help grow and continue the mission of providing excellent child care, training and education.”
By expanding the image of the center, Hiserote said another goal is to enhance enrollment at the Early Childhood Center by up to 50 youth possibly within the next year.
“We want to utilize the space the building has,” he said. “Right now there’s a lot of space in there that’s not being fully utilized. We want to work on reallocating space in the building, refocusing staff on how to best utilize what we have before we look at expanding. We’re certainly not opposed to a physical expansion, but we want to get the most out of our facility currently.”
Nelson said this transition came out of his connection with the community’s child care task force, which formed before the coronavirus pandemic to assess the child care need and review options to support the community.
“We, at the hospital, were keenly aware that our community and region has a significant shortfall in child care slots, but Sioux Center Health has not been in the position to really grow our child care service,” Nelson said.
As Sioux Center Health began reviewing its service branches and where it should focus its efforts in the next five, 10, 20 years, Nelson said transferring the day care service branch to another organization seemed like the best way to support and help the child care service grow.
“The dedication of the employees at the Early Childhood Center throughout the years has led to the highest quality of care for children and families,” Nelson said. “We expect that Aftershock will continue building on that great foundation while growing the center even further. Our board of directors is excited about this opportunity to increase access to childcare in our region while allowing Sioux Center Health to continue focusing on growing our health ministry.”
The Early Childhood Center has about 30 staff.
“We’re so thankful for the years of service that all of our employees have put in to making the ECC the great child care center that it is,” Nelson said. “We’re doing everything we can to make this a very smooth transition for the children and families we serve, and employees who serve those children and families. We want to make sure we do this right. Both Aftershock and Sioux Center Health are committed to making this process the best it can be.”