As a single mother of three young children, Ricki works hard to give her family the best life possible. Along with working and raising her children near Ames, Iowa, Ricki also spent the last few years completing her bachelor’s degree in psychology through the University of Northern Iowa. Finding a childcare provider she could afford and trust was key to living a great life.
“Childcare is so expensive anywhere you go, and if I had to pay on my own I wouldn’t be able to afford it,” said Ricki. “In early 2019, my daughters Brooklyn and Kamryn qualified for state childcare assistance, so I began bringing them to ChildServe. My son Royce, who was 4 months old, wouldn’t qualify until he was two years old, and I couldn’t afford to bring him to ChildServe without it.”
With few childcare providers in her rural community, Ricki’s only option for Royce would mean a lengthy commute. She’d drive 30 minutes to ChildServe in Ames to drop off her daughters, drive another 30 minutes to an in-home provider for Royce, and then begin her hour-long commute to Cedar Falls.
“During the school year, I would have classes three days a week, then work on the opposite days and any hours I could fit outside my classes. Knowing that I’d have to commute two hours extra each day weighed heavily on me,” said Ricki. “A few months later, when the ChildServe team told me that Royce qualified for funding through United Way of Story County, it changed my life. ChildServe’s Childcare program was the reason I could complete my bachelor’s program.”
United Way of Story County has been a generous partner to ChildServe for over twenty years. Many families have benefited from funding support through the sliding fee scale and thousands more have felt the impact of the United Way of Story County’s generous support of ChildServe’s other fundraising initiatives including grants to support the recently refurbished playground and the purchase of outpatient therapy equipment.
Along with a shorter commute and being able to attend school, Ricki was excited about the level of care all three of her kids now had access to.
“My kids love coming to ChildServe. My daughters show me their arts and crafts, and tell me everything their teachers talked about that day. Even though it’s childcare, it’s a lot like preschool. Brooklyn and Kamryn work on so many skills they’ll need to thrive at school. Royce will turn two in November, and the team has been there to encourage his independence and growth through each step of his development. He learned to walk and eat solids at ChildServe.”
In April 2020, a fire in a neighbor’s house spread and destroyed their home. Ricki once again found ChildServe ready to help her family move forward.
“We lost most of our belongings in the fire,” said Ricki. “I was so grateful the kids could come to Childcare and have a sense of normalcy by seeing their friends and teachers. The first day I brought them in after the fire, they didn’t have any blankets for naptime. When I picked them up that day, each one had a new blanket that was theirs to keep. I left in tears. It’s little things like knowing they rock my son to sleep, or hearing my daughter’s excitement that her teacher braided her hair that show me much they really care about my kids.”
For Emily Hofer, Childcare site supervisor, seeing families thrive is one of the best parts of working at ChildServe.
“We get to cheer families on in every area of their life, and we walk with them through difficulties they face too,” said Emily. “For Ricki’s family, we knew the challenge she was facing and wanted to help. Thanks to their generosity through the ASSET Program, the United Way of Story County allowed ChildServe to help this family live a great life, and set them up for a brighter future.”
As she continues to build a future for her family, Ricki has peace knowing her kids have a safe place where they can grow and play every day.
“It’s hard for parents to be at work and be thinking about their kids. The last thing you want is to be worrying if they’re doing okay. I’ve never had that feeling. Every time I’ve dropped my kids off at ChildServe, I’ve headed out to my work or school feeling that my kids were safe and happy.”