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(CAMERON, Mo.) Community Action Partnership of Greater St. Joseph (CAP) has expanded their reach once again to Clinton and DeKalb Counties with a new location in Cameron.
"We've known that the Cameron community has really always been a goal for us to return to," Whitney Lanning, CAP executive director, said.
The non-profit organization had a Cameron location that opened around 1965, but it closed in 2013 following the federal sequestration of all Head Start programs.
"What was really surprising about that is that over the course of time and national efforts to restore that funding, the Office of Head Start actually received all of the money that they were sequestered and additional money back," Lanning said.
She added that since closing their previous location, the need for early childhood services in the area went up.
"From 2013 to present, the Cameron community has lost a lot of early childhood opportunities," Lanning said. "They've really struggled with licensed childcare, and so when we were determining the best place for a new center we always knew that it was Cameron."
In 2016, CAP St. Joe was able to apply for additional funding to move back to the Clinton/DeKalb counties area. The organization received $500,000 from former Missouri Governor Jay Nixon's Start Smart Initiative and over $1 Million from the Office of Head Start.
“Anytime that you’re spending federal dollars there are a lot of hoops to jump through, and so we’ve been jumping through those hoops for three years now," Lanning said.
The new location for the Head Start building in Cameron will be the old hospital at 1015 W. 4th Street. CAP employees said the building had been vacant for a few years, and was even gutted at one point.
“We started really with just an empty building, with kind of crumbling brick walls," Ashley Phillips, CAP early childhood development director, said. "You could see through the side of the building - like you could see the daylight.”
It took about three years to get the building up to standard and ready to open. For now, Phillips said the Cameron location will offer CAP's Head Start services for children between three and five years old.
She added that the building does have the capacity in the future to serve infants and toddlers, and that there is a secure space at the opposite side of the facility to provide social services to those in need.
"When we got to the hospital we just kind of knew," Phillips said. "One, it's a piece of the community. It's in the middle of everything, it's accessible, it's easy to get to, but also it was huge and it was just kind of this big space."
The building has provided them with roughly 11,000 square feet of space with room for possible expansion.
Community Action will be holding an Open House at this new location on Thursday, October 3rd. The public has been invited to come and check out the new space from 5 p.m. until 7 p.m.