Early Childhood


Building nurturing communities of thriving children

WCI supports coalition building in 10 Early Childhood Initiative sites throughout west central Minnesota. These ECI communities seek the involvement of parents, senior citizens, educators, business and community leaders, the faith community, policy makers and all citizens interested in making their community a nurturing environment for young children and their families. The ECI is not about specific programs or grant awards, it’s about joining together in a long-term effort to make young children a real priority. The ECI is about working with others to assess current early childhood efforts, figuring out what more your community can do and then doing it!
Each ECI team is led by a coordinator who facilitates the process of identifying, planning and implementing strategies specific to helping their communities become more nurturing places for young children and their families.

Our ECI communities and highlights:

  • Becker County ECI
    Fran Rethwisch, coordinator
  • Clay County ECI
    Carolyn Strnad, coordinator
    • Our fourth annual Kidsfest was held in April of this year which included a record number of resource booths, activities and stage performances.  Some events included-
      • free screening and dental varnishing station (a mini Dental Network grant paying for supplies) 
      • Child Id program (finger print, face & voice recording) 
  • Douglas County ECI
    Connie Fields, coordinator
    • The Douglas County ECI collaborated with the Douglas County Sheriff and staff to decorate the jail visiting room. The ECI provided-
      • large zoo animal wall stickers
      • child sized chairs
      • coloring books
      • crayons
  • Grant County ECI
    Deb Hengel, coordinator
  • Otter Tail County ECI
    Breanna Grundmeier, coordinator
    • Our conversations often direct how employers and other community members can get more involved with establishing more childcare options.  Several of our communities and employers have made initial steps on childcare solutions.  It will take time, and a lot of effort, but together, we hope to build our early care and education system!
  • Pope County ECI
    Jeannie Pederson, coordinator
  • Stevens County ECI
    Diane Strobel, coordinator
    • The Stevens County Early Childhood Initiative (ECI) supported three Family Fun Nights that were held throughout the 2017-18 school year.  Events included-
      • Halloween Party (Morris Elementary school gym)
      • Sweetheart Dance 
      • Movie Night
  • Traverse County ECI
    Julie Smith, coordinator
  • White Earth ECI
    Casey Francis, coordinator
  • Southern Valley (Wilkin County) ECI
    Kristi Maas, coordinator