In the face of tight financial times, the Salvation Army will close its Stepping Stones Child Development Center at the Lied Renaissance Campus near 36th and Cuming Streets on Jan. 2, officials said Thursday.
The center, which opened in the early 1990s, currently serves 72 children, said Linda Burkle, the organization's divisional social services director. Parents were to receive notification letters Thursday, along with a list of quality child care centers in the area that the organization prepared to aid the search for replacement care.
“We want to do whatever we can to ease that transition and help them into another child care setting,” said Burkle, who was involved in opening the Stepping Stones program.
In fact, the organization pushed back the closing until Jan. 2 in order to give families and staff time to find new places.
But the decision, which is final, ultimately came down to finances.
Susan Eustice, a Salvation Army spokeswoman, said total donations in Omaha for the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30 are down about 14 percent from what the organization had budgeted. The organization hopes to make up for that with its annual Tree of Lights campaign, which kicks off Nov. 9. Last year's campaign, including bell ringers and red kettles, raised $3.1 million, the organization's goal.
Overall, the Salvation Army operates more than 30 programs in the metropolitan area, from programs for homeless veterans to those for teen moms. Most receive help through the organization's fundraising efforts, Burkle said.
The child care center opened, she said, with the plan that only a limited number of children would receive child care subsidies while most would pay private rates.
But most families currently receive subsidies, she said. Because of that, the organization has tried to keep rates low. The organization had been trying to increase its own contribution and raise funds for the center. But with the economy still tight, fundraising is, too. Currently, the center's annual budget is $821,000. The Salvation Army contributes $331,000.
Burkle said the organization does not anticipate cutting any other programs.
“You look at all the programs, you have to make those hard decisions,” she said. “Unfortunately, it is a very hard decision.”
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