In the community

Euvalcree nears grand opening of child care center

ONTARIO — Malheur County parents could see some relief in the next couple of months from the child care pinch gripping most of the state as a nonprofit that won a $1.2 million state grant last year puts the final touches on a new center that will serve 30 children.

Euvalcree, the Ontario nonprofit, is poised to open a child care center for children as young as 2.

The money came to the county in the 2022 Legislature, which earmarked $100 million for child care programs across Oregon. According to a state report at the end of 2022, Euvalcree had spent nearly $315,000 on the project.

The project includes the complete remodel of a facility located at 542 W. Idaho Ave. in Ontario, according to Gustavo Morales, Euvalcree executive director.

Morales, said contractors are in the final stretch of completing the work on the building.

Morales said once the extensive remodel is complete, the building must pass an inspection which he said should be in the coming month. The goal, he said, is to be operational by the time school starts in the fall.

The facility, he said, cannot get licensed until the building passes its final inspection. Once the child care center is licensed they will make applications available for those seeking child care.

The complete remodel of the building, according to state quarterly reports obtained by the Enterprise, required the organization to make the building compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. This included a bathroom remodel, widening of hallways and installing new doors.

Additionally, contractors replaced the building’s flooring, painted the interior and exterior of the building, updated lighting fixtures, put in perimeter fencing and installed an outdoor play area.

Morales said for safety purposes, the facility would not be open to the public. However, he said those interested in learning more about facility find out more by dropping by Euvalcree’s main office at 67 SW. 2nd Ave. in Ontario.  

The facility, Yolanda Morales, a project organizer and Gustavo’s mother, said, will be open to the community, offering child care services for an undetermined cost. Those who qualify, she said, might receive services at no charge, others, at a reduced rate. Nonetheless, she said the center is there for anyone who needs it.

 “This will be open to the whole community,” she said.

The grant also paid for a free training program for potential business owners interested in establishing child care out of their homes, according to Euvalcree’s plan.

Currently, the Yolanda Morales said, three people are going through training, which takes three to six months to complete.

With seven slots available, those interested must pass a background check, go through training and volunteer for 480 monitored hours, she said.

She noted that the potential business owners can either put in the hours at the center when it opens or volunteer with a licensed child care center affiliated with Euvalcree.

Yolanda Morales said participants receive a training stipend and once training is complete, Euvalcree will provide up to $25,000 for the 10 graduates to open their new business, eventually serving 13 to 16 children per location, according to Euvalcree’s plan.

As in much of Oregon, Malheur County needs more child care providers.

Morales said child care costs are high in Malheur County, while availability is low.

A 2022 report out of Oregon State University underscores the scope of the issue. In Malheur County, a combined 805 slots were available at child care centers and home child care providers for the nearly 6,000 children under 13 living in the county last year.

The report noted that 15% of children under 13 had access to child care and just over 20% of children in the 3-to-4 age range were enrolled in pre-school.

The annual cost of toddler care for one kid in a child care center is $7,500, nearly 30% of the yearly pay for a minimum wage worker, the university’s researchers found.

All of this makes it difficult for families where, according to the report, more than half of the county’s parents must work to make ends meet, Morales said.  He said it’s incredibly challenging for families with infants or toddlers where the care is more time-consuming.

Then, he said families working in agriculture, where the workday begins at 4 a.m., are scrambling to find child care when most providers are not available until as early as 8 a.m.

Morales said in an email Friday, July 28, the facility, coupled with the entrepreneurship program, will serve as a “catalyst” to generate new childcare opportunities and create spaces to help families find licensed child care.

Over time, Morales said, this will help fill the child care gap in the county.

The new child care center aims to remedy local problems, “proper instruction for children under the age of 6,” and a “lack of culturally specific and linguistically appropriate services,” and “flexible child care for working families,” according to Euvalcree’s plan.

Those interested in applying for child care once the facility is licensed, or would like to learn more about the entrepreneurship program, can call 541-709-4505 or email [email protected].

Euvalcree, established in 2014, had $1.8 million in program services, according to its 2021 Department of Justice nonprofit report. The organization reported that during the pandemic’s peak, it served 25,000 people in rural eastern Oregon and delivered $6 million in services and resources.

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