Trinity Merrill Childcare Center set to open in September
Larger building, new name, new location, greater capacity to meet Merrill’s childcare needs
TINA L. SCOTT
Trinity Lutheran Church in Merrill (Trinity Merrill) is set to open a new and expanded childcare facility in mid September 2022 to help address the shortage of available childcare in the area.
Currently known as Trinity Christian Daycare at 501 W. Main St., the daycare will soon have a new location and a new name: Trinity Merrill Childcare Center (TMCC) will be located at 201 Stange St. in the former Hurd office building, located near several manufacturing facilities.
Located right off the Riverbend Trail, removed from busy main streets, and yet easily accessible from W. Main St., “Trinity Merrill believes this location provides a safe and convenient spot for children to be cared for,” said Pastor Adam Rodriguez, Associate Pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church in Merrill and the spokesperson for the project.
The new facility will be considerably larger than the current daycare and will provide the opportunity to care for more children. “Capacity at the new TMCC will be approximately 90, based on final configuration of the remodel,” he said.
TMCC will care for children from infants to age 5 and will also provide “wrap around care” for school age children, before and after school.
Their summer program also provides care for children ages 5-12. “We will continue this service in the future,” Rodriguez said.
Hours of operation will be 5:30 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
“Cost will stay the same when we move to the new building. It will vary by age level, with infants and toddlers one rate, and children age three and older another,” Rodriguez said. While the program does not currently accept subsidized daycare funding, they are working to make that possible for low income working families in the future. “We will not accept government payment when we first open,” he said, “but it is our goal to make steps forward to be able to accept this form of payment.”
Once the new location is ready for occupancy, Trinity Christian Daycare will vacate their current space next to Trinity Lutheran School on W. Main St.
“We will be able to relocate all students to the new childcare center AND expand at the same time,” Rodriguez said.
“We are thankful that God opened our current space up to us for the past 10+ years and the ministry He allowed to operate there. We are also excited for what God has in store at this new building,” he said.
Fulfilling a mission to assist the community and help Merrill flourish
Nearly three years ago, Rodriguez attended a planning meeting for the city. At that meeting, the city’s strengths and weaknesses, threats and opportunities, were openly discussed, and since then, the city as a government and individual citizens and citizen groups have been working to celebrate and promote those strengths and opportunities while also seeking solutions to shore up the city’s weaknesses and negate the threats.
“When asked what the biggest threats to Merrill were, the top two were housing and childcare,” Rodriguez remembers. Merrill needed more housing and more childcare, and without them, it limited the city’s ability to focus on many opportunities.
“Ever since that meeting, Trinity Merrill has been looking for ways to assist the community and help Merrill flourish,” he said.
And since that time, Rodriguez said the need for more childcare has become even more evident. “I distinctly remember a conversation I had with someone who said that when they found out they were pregnant, they called their childcare provider before their parents, because finding childcare in Merrill is that difficult,” Rodriguez said.
Trinity Merrill as a congregation began looking at research and having conversations within the community, trying to figure out how they could help the Merrill community with this great need. The church already operated Trinity Daycare in the building next to their school, but they wanted to do more.
Initially, the congregation thought Park City Credit Union’s former building on E. Second St. might be the solution. However, despite great efforts to make that project work, on the parts of both Trinity and Park City, the cost of renovations to make the property suitable as a childcare facility to meet regulations deemed the project unworkable.
When one door closes, God opens another
“As the calendar year turned and that project started to hit a wall, Tim Zimmerman, President of Mitchell Metal Products, approached Trinity Merrill about the potential of using the building at 201 Stange St. for our childcare expansion efforts,” Rodriguez said. “With a renewed vigor, the people of Trinity Merrill started to quickly explore this ministry opportunity. With a concerted effort from both Trinity Merrill and Tim Zimmerman, we both quickly realized that this building was exactly what we were looking for.”
“This building has some pretty essential things that we were looking for, including proximity to Trinity Merrill’s current campus, an elevator, and a fire suppression system,” he said. “Couple that with approximately 8,800 square feet of building space [compared to the 2,915 square feet in the current facility], and an extensive amount of green space for a playground and an outside play space, and this building and property was the perfect fit for us.”
The building is one story with a basement with “natural light throughout” enabling the entire building to be used for childcare, he said.
“After much prayer, discussion, and investigation, Trinity Merrill unanimously approved the purchase of the building at the spring Congregation Meeting on April 24, 2022, for the use of childcare expansion for the needs of her community,” Rodriguez said. “Trinity Merrill has found joy in meeting the needs of her community, just as Jesus continues to come to us to meet our needs.”
The church and Zimmerman worked together to develop lot lines and easements and then with the City of Merrill to get the property properly zoned.
Trinity Merrill closed on the deal on June 28, 2022, and renovations are well under way now that they own the building.
“The building is in great shape,” Rodriguez said. Since the building was formerly an office, they removed walls to expand childcare room size, took down fencing and put fencing up around the green space playground area, and are acquiring permanent play structure equipment to create an area that will “provide a wonderful outside play space.”
They are also updating the existing kitchen area and some of the HVAC system and will install a camera system “and other security features for the safety of the children,” he said.
“Our General Contractor, Jim Turenne, has provided great oversight for us. His knowledge and his own desire to see childcare expand in Merrill has been a true blessing for us,” Rodriguez added.
Kathy Yahr, the Principal of Trinity Lutheran School, served as interim Director of Trinity Christian Daycare during the expansion project from Jan. through May 2022, and “Her expertise guided us well in the process,” he added.
“Tim Zimmerman and Mitchell Metal Products have been wonderful to work with,” Rodriguez said. “From the very beginning, Tim said that he would do everything in his power to make sure that this project was successful for the betterment of Merrill. He has certainly kept his word on that promise.”
Prayer, passion for community, and hard work pays off
“The people of Trinity Merrill have been excited and passionate about childcare expansion since we started talking . . . They know and understand the need for childcare in Merrill. They also understand the unique position that the church has in service to her community. Trinity Merrill does this not only to fill a deep need in the community, but also to be the love of Jesus to our community. Without the help and support of the people who call Trinity Merrill home, this project would not be possible,” he said.
Originally, the goal was occupancy by Oct. 1, 2022, but now, despite supply chain issues, “We will be in by September 12,” Rodriguez said.
“As the date gets closer and the work is close to done, we will host open houses for parents and children to come see the future TMCC,” he said.
“This project is finally coming together because of the grace of God given to all of us. The end goals of Trinity Merrill are stated like this, ‘As a result of the ministries of Trinity, through God’s grace, the community of Merrill will flourish and individuals will be transformed by the Gospel as they embark on a life journey to love, learn, and live like Jesus.’ We truly believe that this project is a great way to help Merrill flourish while helping people embark on a life journey to love like Jesus,” Rodriguez said.
TMCC is hiring
As with many area businesses, staffing is a challenge, and staffing will dictate whether the new facility is able to operate at full capacity.
“Staffing this expansion has been the hardest part,” Rodriguez said. Their childcare facility follows Wisconsin Daycare licensing ratios to provide the appropriate number of staff according to the number of children of each age level. “We have 55 children currently in Trinity Daycare, though that number fluctuates in the summer,” Rodriguez said. However, the current facility is not operating at full capacity due to staffing shortages there. “We could care for more children if we had more staff,” he said.
Deb Weasner has now been hired as the Director of the new childcare center, and TMCC is hiring. Anyone interested in applying can call 715.536.4011 for more information.
Merrill community invited to get involved
Trinity Merrill’s commitment to expanding childcare in Merrill is all about helping the community of Merrill flourish, and they want to invite the Merrill community to get involved.
Trinity Church will hold their Merrill Block Party on Aug. 28 and plans to offer golf cart rides from Trinity Church down to the childcare center for tours. The community is invited.
“On September 11, we will dedicate the building after the 10:30 a.m. service. We will process down from the church to the childcare center,” Rodriguez said. Again, the community is invited.
Additional open house dates will soon be finalized and open to parents, children, and the Merrill community.
To make a donation to support this project, go to www.trinitymerrill.com/give, click on “Give Now,” and select the drop-down option for “Childcare Expansion Project.” Donations may also be mailed to: Trinity Merrill Lutheran Church, 107 N. State St., Merrill, WI 54452. Be sure to note the donation is for the Childcare Expansion Project.
For more information or for questions, contact Pastor Adam Rodriguez at [email protected].