Officials unveil Apple Lane Child Care Center to public
Published 5:33 am Thursday, August 22, 2013
Dozens of children marched and sang songs of cheer Wednesday afternoon in recognition of a new Austin facility that will serve them well, and many others for years to come.
Local leaders and parents gathered to watch that excitement at the west end of Riverland Community College, along with the enthusiasm of of those who helped make Apple Lane Child Care Center a reality.
Hormel Foundation Board chair Gary Ray spoke about his satisfaction of the more than $3 million project that transformed Riverland’s West Campus.
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“Things like this put a smile on my face,” he said.
Ray addressed the studies that mention a future lack of workforce in coming years and why early childhood education is becoming more important. He said the completion of the new facility shows Austin cares about its young children, parents and future generations.
“This is a great example of how America works in a strong and thriving community like Austin,” Ray said, shortly before presenting a symbolic key to Riverland President Adenuga Atewologun.
Early education, Ray added, ensures students will continuously excel the further they push through schooling.
Shannon Hart, Apple Lane executive director, was as excited about the transformation as anybody.
“As you look around here, the kids’ T-shirts say it all,” she said.
Hart referred to the same slogan that is prominently displayed in the Apple Lane lobby: “We are the splash of color on the canvas of life.”
Inside, the former 17,000-square-foot ag diesel building is unrecognizable. What once was dark-gray, cold steel is now a bright, colorful corridor of classrooms and wide-open play area with jungle gym, basketball hoops, mats, climbing wall and more.
“It’s amazing how that splash of color makes a difference,” Hart said.
According to Riverland, the facility will annually serve 300 or more children ages 6 weeks to 12 years old.
The growing need for child care and the opportunity for more early education originally drew the attention of former Riverland president Terry Leas, who offered the space for the new facility.
Riverland representatives say the new child care center will serve more than just children, including those in Riverland’s programs of nursing, human services, law enforcement and more. It also opens the opportunity for new associate and bachelor degree programs, they say.
Apple Lane officially opened for business in mid-June and is in the midst of fall registration. The project idea started about two years ago was eventually made possible by donations of $2 million from the Hormel Foundation, $1 million from the Hormel Foods Charitable Trust, $50,000 from Mayo Clinic Health System in Austin, $25,000 from the Development Corporation of Austin and $10,000 from the Hirsh Foundation.