Childcare Cost Puts Job in Doubt

Jasmine and Jeremy Hughes are thrilled to be adding a son to their family.

The couple are happily making plans for the little boy’s arrival on or around Feb. 24.

“I know I’m not due for a few months, but we’re trying to get everything set in stone so it’s not so last minute,” Jasmine Hughes said.

One issue that has proven difficult has been finding childcare in Salina.

Because of that, the mom-to-be’s future as a teller at the Ohio branch of The Bank of Tescott, is in doubt.

“I don’t have any family here and my husband’s family is not very local. We really don’t have any support here as far as childcare,” she said. “We did have somebody, but just learned she’s leaving the state. It’s been stressful finding someone trustworthy and affordable.”

Thanks to “long waiting lists,” daycare centers are not an option, either.

With Jeremy Hughes eyeing a career as a truck driver, Jasmine’s only option, without daycare services, is being a stay-at-home mom.

“I would really hate to leave the bank,” she said. “I want to grow my career here.”

At least one other “awesome employee” at The Bank of Tescott recently had to leave last year for the same reason, said Mark Galloway, employee engagement specialist with the bank.

“She had to make a hard decision and chose her family over a career path,” he said. “It’s not unusual, just unfortunate. She had to quit because she had no other options.”

Those examples are part of what prompted The Bank of Tescott to join eight other Salina businesses to lead the Salina version of a nationwide effort dubbed the “Best Day Ever.”

A social media influencer, Charlie Rocket, traveling in an RV dubbed the “Dream Machine,” is visiting folks with specific needs to “make dreams come true,” Galloway said. “We just decided to take a different spin on it and make it more relevant for our communities. Our dream is accessible childcare. Everybody we asked, just said ‘heck yeah, we’ll partner with this.’ ”

Starting at 8:30 a.m. Friday, a group from the local companies will be wearing superhero capes and “delivering gift baskets and monetary gifts to 12 licensed childcare centers and approximately 40 licensed in-home childcare providers (in Saline County and northern McPherson County) to shower them with appreciation and encouragement and let them know that we support them, we recognize the challenges they are facing, and we’re doing our best to find a solution to this critical issue,”

The local event is aimed at raising awareness to the childcare crisis. The monetary gifts cover the wage gap between the average pay of $11 an hour and $15 an hour, the living wage in Saline County, he said, citing information from the Salina Area Chamber of Commerce.

“It represents, symbolically, the lost wages for a day,” Galloway said. “We’re going to be visiting all of these places.”

The local volunteers’ ultimate goal is to encourage giving to the drive to raise half a million dollars a year for the Salina Early Childhood Initiative Fund “to raise money that can be distributed right now,” he said, “while endowment funds are being raised.”

The endowment drive is to raise up to $12 million to permanently cover costs, buy raising dividends to fill wage voids.

“The Salina business community is not large enough to raise enough large six-figure donations to fill that endowment,” Galloway said. “It’s going to take the whole community. This is more than a government solution. It’s really for all of us to voluntarily chip in, solve a problem and possibly prevent mill levy and sales tax increases as a result.”

The Salina “Best Day Ever” event “is separate from and complementary to what Claire (Ludes, United Way executive director) is doing,” he said. “We’re trying to push some momentum in that direction.”