A former casino building in Manistee County is set to fill some critical needs for the community.

The original casino building has been sitting empty for a decade, used mainly for storage.

At the same time, some tribal members saw a growing need in the community for child care.

The Director of Family Services for the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians says when he started working on this project he was a case manager helping families in tribe.

“And I noticed that childcare was a common issue with the parents I worked with,” says Jason Cross. “Trying to resolve that so they can get gainful employment, maintain that employment is important. And from the Tribe’s perspective it’s about community building. Making Manistee a county of choice, where people who are thinking of coming here or maybe thinking of leaving here would have another reason to stay.”

The center will offer childcare for kids from birth to 12 years old all year round and from 6 in the morning until midnight – even on school snow days.

But that’s not all.

There will also be classrooms for family education.

“We’re also going to offer parenting classes, group sessions,” says Cross. “We’re going to focus on healthy eating, healthy living, education.”

The center recently received nearly $500,000 from the Kellogg Foundation to help open.

And students from Baker College have been working hard, putting together a business plan for the center.

Adam Hatchew says, “They are involved,” says Adam Hatchew with Baker College. “They see the help that this is going to do for the community. And for that reason, I think it’s a little bit more, they’re doing a little bit extra work. They’re very proud of it so far.”

When it’s done, the center could also become a kind of learning lab for Baker students.

It will also be the new home for the Child Advocacy Center in Manistee County, and the Intermediate School District will have space here as well.

“This is for the entire community,” says Virgil Johnson, LRBOI Tribal Council Speaker. “This is for community of choice. And this is why we’re trying to move this forward. Yes, we have the spirit, I say, from the tribal end from socialistic viewpoints, the family is very important. But it’s not only just for the Tribe it’s for the entire community.”

Cross says nearly half of Manistee County’s 3 and 4 year olds don’t attend preschool.

He’s hoping this new center will help.

Construction on the old casino building is expected to begin in the next two weeks with an opening in late January.

 Originally published by upnorthlive

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