In June, Tammye Treviño, Administrator for Rural Housing and Community Facilities, traveled to Sitka and Ketchikan, Alaska for National Homeownership Month and discussions with community leaders on the intent of the USDA StrikeForce initiative in Southeast Alaska.
Ms. Treviño also took time in Sitka to visit the historic Sheldon Jackson College campus, a private Christian liberal arts college that was an historic Alaska Native trade school in its inception in the 1800’s. The college stopped operating several years ago. On the campus are two facilities, a student center and a day care center, funded through USDA Rural Development’s Community Facilities program. With the college closure, its board of trustees elected to transfer the entire remaining campus over to popular and growing fine arts nonprofit – Alaska Arts Southeast, Inc.
Working with all parties, USDA staff helped find a path to transfer the two USDA-funded buildings to the arts group and a non-profit day care provider.
To that end, with all parties working together, Administrator Treviño was able to sign authorizing documents for this transaction such that Alaska Arts Southeast was able to pay off the negotiated debt that the college owed for the student center and then also assume the responsibilities of the grant agreement. Now, the government’s interests have been satisfied and Alaska Arts Southeast has cornerstone building for delivery of education in the fine arts to kids and adults from Alaska and across the country.
The other facility was a daycare operation that was, in part, used with the Elementary Education program offered at the former four year college. On an island community of 8900 residents, this daycare is one of the largest and most highly regarded facilities of its type. Its closure would have been a challenge for many families and their employers. With the assistance of USDA’s Alaska staff, the parents helped the daycare manager form a nonprofit group that then applied for financing to take ownership of and is now running the facility as an independent operation.
In assuming ownership, they ensured that quality and needed daycare facilities remained available to those thirty seven Sitka families as the daycare never closed. Three years later, the Sheldon Jackson Childcare Center is operating successfully and is financially stable. This is considered a success story within the Servicing Division for the agency. Ms. Treviño enjoyed her facility tour with Lolly Miller, Daycare Manager on a Saturday morning.
This is a fine example of effort by USDA and a local community to protect taxpayer interests while also working to keep those two facilities in good hands, and for their intended community and public uses.
To find out more about USDA Rural Development programs click here.