To address the region’s critical dearth of childcare services, Mid-State Health Center augmented its childcare program to accommodate over 60 infant-through-pre-school-aged children.
Mid-State Health Center is a community health center with locations in Bristol and Plymouth that has provide primary care since 1998. As a special type of community health center known as a federally qualified health center, Mid-State offers medical, dental, behavioral health, and substance use disorder treatment services to nearly 12,000 patients. Mid-State strives to find innovative ways to meet the needs of the communities we serve: In 2020, we added onsite diagnostic imaging and psychiatry services via telehealth; and in 2021, we made COVID-19 testing and vaccinations available. In the spirit of service to our community, we recently opened Little Antlers Learning Center.
Mid-State’s childcare program was established 15 years ago as a workforce recruitment tool and employee benefit for providers and staff. In 2020, a community feasibility assessment identified that only 25% of infants and toddlers had access to licensed childcare services. We knew something had to be done to help the hardworking families in our area, so our team got to work building relationships with federal, state, and local partners to expand access to childcare and economic opportunities for the greater Plymouth area.
As a result of years of steadfast planning and collaboration, in July the organization opened its new, state-of-the-art facility – Little Antlers Learning Center to serve as the early learning home for more than 60 children, ages 6 weeks to six years, in Central NH. Fifty-one percent of its slots will serve low- and moderate-income households.
Located in Plymouth, the 8,400 square foot facility has solar panels, HVAC, indoor and outdoor play areas, a garden, and the White Mountains as a backfrop.
The name “Little Antlers” was thought up by a staff member and quickly ascended to the top of the list as the community favorite. That staffer's infant daughter, the center’s youngest learner and unofficial mascot, donned antlers to inaugurate the organization’s first day. Other participants in commencement festivities included representatives from the Offices of U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen and U.S. Representative Annie Kuster; Executive Councilor Joseph D. Kenney; Mid-State employees, family, and friends; local business owners; and WMUR host Fred Kocher, who was eager to plant a seed in the illustrious garden.
Mid-State has obtained funding for the $3.2 million construction project from Congressionally Directed Spending secured by Senator Jeanne Shaheen; grants by the Northern Border Regional Commission; Community Development tax credits and two block grants; tax credit commitments through Woodsville Guaranty Savings Bank, Bank of NH, Northway Bank, Meredith Village Savings Bank, Orchard Medical Management, Anagnost Companies, and the Grappone Auto Group; construction financing through Bank of NH; a USDA Rural Development loan; and sponsorship from Grafton County. Community fundraising efforts will continue through the “Building the Next Generation” capital campaign, with the goal of raising $550,000.
Audrey Goudie, director of philanthropy, said, the community effort “allows parents to get back to work, or stay at work, knowing that their child is safe, comfortable, and having a great time. To assist these families and children to be well-positioned for a healthy future is a nice layer on top of our integrated health care approach.