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– Messenger photo by Kelby Wingert

Webster County Supervisor Niki Conrad, right, presented Sandy Hollingsworth, owner of the Hollingsworth School of Dance, with a $10,000 Webster County Business Resumption and Continuity Grant on Monday. The Hollingsworth business was one of 31 small businesses in Webster County to receive the grants.

Erin Nelson experienced firsthand the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic when the daycare she runs in Fort Dodge began seeing fewer and fewer children each day because so many of their parents were working from home in the spring of 2020.

However, Nelson still kept his daycare open for families who couldn’t work remotely and still needed that daycare. Even then, she struggled to find cleaning supplies and paper for the daycare.

Still, Nelson got away with it because she knows how hard it is to find daycare in Fort Dodge.

“The waiting lists at all day care are so long,” she says.

Last week, Nelson was one of 31 Webster County small business owners to receive a Webster County Business Resumption and Continuity Grant. Webster County Supervisor Niki Conrad broke the news of the $10,000 grant.

– Messenger photo by Kelby Wingert

Fort Dodge daycare owner Erin Nelson, left, received a $10,000 Webster County Business Continuity and Resumption Grant Monday from Webster County Supervisor Niki Conrad.

“Thanks to the American Rescue Plan Act, we received a certain amount of money to help limit the effects of the pandemic”, Konrad said. “A lot of the money has gone to various things that will help in the event that we have a pandemic in the future, or different areas of the county that have been affected by COVID.”

The Webster County Board of Supervisors set aside $250,000 of ARPA funds the county received to be used for these grants. They then partnered with the Greater Fort Dodge Growth Alliance and the Iowa Central Small Business Development Center to review grant applications and award prizes ranging from $2,500 to $10,000.

“It’s for local small businesses who may not have gotten any money through the Care Act and were really struggling to make ends meet because of the pandemic,” Konrad said. “Specifically, we wanted to make sure they could put money back into the local economy and help keep their businesses afloat, and that’s exactly what these grants will do.”

Nelson, who has operated child care centers for 34 years, already knows how she will use the grant money.

“There are a lot of things I’m going to do like finishing the daycare fence,” she says. “I’m going to update some toys that probably should have been updated last year, and do some paint repairs and just a few simple things to keep it fun and safe for the kids.”

She also plans to stock up on toilet paper and paper plates to prepare in case there is a supply shortage again in the future.

Although county supervisors and county auditor Doreen Pliner have spent the past week surprising grant applicants with their awards, no one was more surprised than Sandy Hollingsworth, co-owner of the Hollingsworth School of Dance and Gymnastics.

Hollingsworth didn’t even know her business was eligible for the grant – she thinks her daughter, Vicky Vinchattle, might have submitted the application.

“I’m amazed, I really am” Hollingsworth said after Conrad told him his company would receive $10,000.

Some of the grant recipients are still being notified and surprised by county supervisors, but a full list of all 31 recipients will be released at a later date.

“Supervisors, we’re the ones who go out and tell people the good news – we get the fun part – but it’s the people from the Growth Alliance, the Small Business Development Center and the county folks who really did the work. hard to make sure we can facilitate these grants,” Konrad said.


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