Here I stand, I can do no other.
Regardless of your view on religion, if you have studied history you may have heard the phrase “Here I stand; I can do no other.” The phrase became descriptive of the time period commonly known as “The Reformation”. But I’m not here to debate religion. I’m here to take a stand for families, children, teachers, child care providers, and small business owners; to take a stand for communities. I’m here to take a stand, regardless of the repeated emails, social media messages and warnings from those who fear that by taking a stand, I will become a target, risking my own business and livelihood. That I am risking the dream I have worked so hard to bring to fruition… I’m afraid too. However, in the words of Luther, “I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God. Amen.”
Here We Grow began with a prayer in the parking lot of what was originally built as a 2-room school house, located on 2 acres in Lime Township, Mankato, MN. It was the Summer of 2012. It was the beginning of our journey to partner with families; to do things differently than the status quo. I took a leap, knowing that there must be a different way, knowing that I would have to prove myself and our philosophy.
Five years later, here I stand, surrounded by 7 teachers, each employed full-time; surrounded by 38 families, with another 20 on our waiting list. Here I stand, surrounded by partnerships within the community and beyond. Here I stand.
Here I stand, in the middle of a child care crisis, receiving sometimes 10 phone calls a day from families seeking an environment that meets their parenting philosophy, or in most cases, seeking to add their name to our waiting list or even join us on a temporary basis so that they can continue employment.
Here I stand, a 4-Star Parent Aware Rated early learning environment, viewed by the local school district as “not a real Preschool”.
Here I stand, extending our mission beyond our four walls, by consulting with other towns/cities to bring quality learning environments to their community; often times to save their small schools and local businesses. Here I stand, viewed by others as “stupid” for “helping the competition”.
Here I stand, accepting child care assistance and Parent Aware Scholarships that provide over 40% of our families access to a high quality early learning environment.
Here I stand, providing wages that far exceed the 2016 National Average Wage of $9.77 per hour in our industry, yet still feeling as though I am perpetuating poverty, because 46% of child care workers in America live in poverty, utilizing one or more forms of government assistance.
Here I stand, awaiting SBA Loan Approval for the 2nd phase of my renovations for our Infant Wing, because even though my financials are solid and I have a high credit score, the industry rate of failure is high, with over 35% of child care centers in Minnesota closing within the first 4 years of operation. Banks will not provide loans without a high percentage guarantee, as provided by the SBA.
Here I stand, feeling like I’m letting down my 16 families who are awaiting Infant Care, with another 40 some on our waiting list hoping for an opening one day.
Here I stand, paying interest on 2 lines of credit while I await County Assistance Payments and Parent Aware Pathway Grant Payments which at this current moment total over $13,000; payments that are rendered 45 days after service because of the manner in which the system is designed.
HERE I STAND. YELLING AT THE TOP OF MY LUNGS HOPING FOR SOMEONE TO HEAR ME! TO GIVE ME EVEN JUST 5 MINUTES OF THEIR TIME; TO LISTEN FROM SOMEONE IN THE FIELD, ON THE FRONT LINES RATHER THAN A PANEL OF EXPERTS WHO ARE BROUGHT FROM ACROSS THE COUNTRY, TO A LOCATION CONVENIENT FOR THE MINORITY AND INCONVENIENT FOR THE MAJORITY. HERE I STAND, MY SCREAMS FALLING ON DEAF EARS. HERE I STAND, YARD SIGNS IN OUR FRONT LAWN HOPING FOR EVEN ONE PERSON TO TAKE ACTION; I CAN DO NO OTHER.
By now, most would have given up; raised the white flag. The truth is, that many already have. Minnesota is losing providers at an increasing rate (while amid a child care shortage- which is rather telling in my opinion) but alas, Here I stand; my message falling on deaf ears of those who have the capability to make the most change.
Here I stand. I can do no other.
Yet there you stand; a government agency making decisions for us, without us.
Yet there you stand; expecting us to step up and solve the child care crisis, while heaping regulations upon us.
Yet there you stand; wondering why so many providers are leaving the field or failing, yet not addressing the time frames, guidelines, and complete disorder of the systems you expect us to participate in to support families.
Yet there you stand; promising meetings to hear our input, while bringing in other experts aside from the ones standing right in front of your face.
Yet there you stand; making decisions without taking an in-depth look at how the agencies work together, or rather don’t.
There you stand, far removed from where I stand. And that is the problem.
So Here I stand.
I will continue to provide assistance to other providers and communities, breaking down the walls that the system has built.
I will continue to put signs in our front lawn and seek local partnerships.
Because every day, when I enter the doors of Here We Grow, I stand surrounded by families, children, teachers, and others within the community and beyond; I stand surrounded by my cause.
So, I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe.
Here I stand, I can do no other, so God help me. Amen.