By Tamas Mondovics
While most people had their eyes on Colin, the season’s third named storm making its way across the Gulf toward Tampa, members of the Redlands Christian Migrant Association (RCMA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development were not deterred from hosting the scheduled ribbon cutting ceremony of a brand new state-of-the art child-care center for children of strawberry pickers and other low-income farm workers.
Braving the weather, RCMA families and their children representing the association’s area schools and academies along with invited guests were all present to witness the festive unveiling program for the new $3.6 million, 15,000-sq.-ft. center at 3103 San Jose Mission Dr. in Dover.
“We have a long, happy history in Dover,” said RCMA’s Executive Director, Barbara Mainster. “But we have regretted for many years having to put so many families on waiting lists. Their kids deserve good early childhood education.”
Since 1995, RCMA has operated a child-care center close to the new site, which currently accommodates 88 children, but has maintained the longest waiting lists among the rest of the centers that RCMA operates statewide.
Officials were proud of the fact that with a capacity to serve nearly 180 children, the new center more than doubles the existing Dover facility, which will officially begin operation in November.
“We have 69 child-care centers statewide and Dover has had the longest waiting lists,” Mainster said. “Now, Dover has the nicest child-care center.”
According to RCMA Director of Communications, Bill Coats, in October RCMA plans to move the older center, a cluster of modular buildings, to a rear corner of the 6-acre home of the new center, to resume operations.
RCMA is Florida’s largest nonprofit child-care provider. Founded in Homestead in 1965, RCMA expanded to Ruskin in Hillsborough County in 1974. A new Dover center also opened in 1981. Today, Tampa Bay is home to RCMA’s largest concentration of operations.
USDA Rural Development loaned RCMA $1.9 million for construction of the new child-care center. The federal Head Start child-care program covered the rest by paying for the land, site work and the remainder of construction costs with grants of $1.7 million. Visit www.rcma.org.