children and staff standing outside of the ann wickman

Investing For Good - Ann W. Wickman Child Development Center

April 4, 2019 | TS Prosperity Group

Our local communities are full of dedicated nonprofits with inspiring missions. TS Prosperity Group wants to celebrate some of these nonprofits by featuring them in our Investing For Good blog series. Next up in the series is the Ann W. Wickman Child Development Center in Atlantic, Iowa. Nishna Valley Family YMCA serves as the operating agent for the facility. Read our interview with Childcare Director Dianna Williams below and stay tuned for additional inspiration from nonprofits serving our community.

Tell us about your nonprofit and its mission.
We formed our Child Development Center to serve children in and around our community with affordable quality care for their children. This has allowed us to keep our workforces strong and growing in our community.

How and when did your entity get started?
An organization was formed in 2008, and a community assessment was performed to see where we had the greatest need in the community to bring businesses and families to our town. This organization applied for grants, donations, and loans to begin construction of our building, and we opened in June of 2010.

Where are you at today and what are your future goals?
We are licensed for 101 children at one time. When we first opened, we had around 40 children, and quickly grew to over 100 children currently enrolled. In the 9 years that we have operated, we have seen almost 700 children go through our program, and we have achieved a five out of five star State of Iowa Quality Rating System score. We look forward to providing quality care and educational opportunities to children and families for several years to come. 

Why should someone support your mission?
In supporting the mission of our Child Care Center, organizations are showing commitment to quality, loving care to children and families, which allows these families to be reliable and successful at their workforce. Support of our facility also allows us to provide teacher support and training, so that the best quality care can be given to the little ones we watch each day.

children listening to speaker at ann wickman center 

What is one way your organization is helping improve the quality of life in our local area?
Providing quality child care in a community helps pull in outside businesses and families into our community. It also strengthens the family unit by easing stress that can be caused by overwhelmed parents trying to balance providing quality care for their child while they are away at work. We are providing those families and children with rich learning experiences - preparing them for their many school years ahead.

What do you enjoy about serving in a nonprofit?
I really enjoy the collaboration between the families, the workforce, local businesses, the school system, and our community to help our families be successful and grow. Seeing families from all income levels be able to receive the care that they expect and deserve for their children while they are away from their children during the day, lets us know that we are providing a valuable service.

How have your life experiences brought you to where you are today?
My husband and I have raised our four children in this community, and now some of our grandchildren are being raised here too. I have several years of experience working with children and in education. Seeing children given rich learning experiences to thrive is a passion of mine.

What do you find is your biggest challenge?
Some of the biggest challenges that we face in our business is financing our program and still keeping the costs affordable for our parents who trust us with their children. We also train our staff heavily, so they have all the tools they need to perform their valuable job of watching and caring for children. It’s very complicated to find funding for training for staff, and to budget affordable salaries for your staff when you are a nonprofit. Our staff work very hard in our building, and love these children immensely. Our goal is to increase wages to compensate all the time and energy and love that they pour into their job, while still keeping costs affordable to families in our building.

children smiling for camera at ann wickman center

What is your motivation? What drives you?
I would say the families and children motivate me the most. It’s incredibly rewarding seeing the children and families become so close to the caring adults in our building that they see every day. Our main focus it to make sure that these children have fantastic days while they are in our care, and to hear the giggles and laughs throughout the hallways during the day is very uplifting. I also love working with my teaching staff, and watching their passion and education grow as they advance through our building. We are a very close knit group of caring, loving adults. We spend so much of our week together, and we enjoy interacting and learning from each other.

What’s your secret to success?
I don’t think it’s a secret - but having a highly trained teaching staff who communicate well with each other and motivate and support each other helps to make our center strong. I also think it’s important for all the staff to know that I am working right alongside of them, doing everything I can to make their jobs more effective and more rewarding.

How do you maintain a healthy work/life balance?
In this line of work it’s very hard to maintain a healthy work/life balance, because they intertwine with each other so often. It’s very hard to not take home the day’s struggles and concerns, and try to think of solutions while you are away from work. But I’m blessed with excellent supervision from my executive director, who makes sure that all his staff keeps from burning out and know that they are supported. I’m also very aware of when I need to take time to refresh and re-energize myself, and I take that time when I can.

What was your biggest life lesson?
My biggest life lesson has been knowing that no matter how hard you try - sometimes things will still go wrong, and that is ok. Just move on, learn from it, and continue to try again tomorrow. As staff we always talk about how “tomorrow is a brand new day,” for kids as well as staff.

children playing toys at ann wickman center

What advice would you give other people who are interested in entering the nonprofit sector?
I think the best advice I would give to someone who was interested in this field, is to do lots of research, and talk to others in the field to learn from their experiences, both good and bad. And to remember that no matter how long you have worked in any field, you need to remember that you are always learning and growing.

How can someone get in contact with you?
The best way to contact me is through the agency that manages and operates our building: The Nishna Valley Family YMCA webpage or by calling the Ann W. Wickman Child Development Center at 712-243-2629. 

How are ways others can volunteer or get involved with your organization?
We love volunteers, and have lots of opportunities for people to help out in our building. Please call us at the Center at 712-243-2629 and ask our friendly staff how you can volunteer to help. Thank you!

toddlers playing sensory toys at ann wickman center 

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