WILLMAR — Living up to both of their names, United Community Action Partnership and Kandiyohi Power Cooperative are working together to create a larger and much needed space for the Head Start program operated by United Community Action Partnership.

Kandiyohi Power Cooperative, with Marcus Construction, is renovating the cooperative's building located on Highway 71 Northeast overlooking Willmar Lake, into the new home for Head Start in Willmar.

"We really needed to find this space," said Deb Brandt, executive director of United Community Action Partnership. The nonprofit organization serves several southwest Minnesota counties, offering community services to eliminate poverty, including such things as assistance with housing, transportation and tax preparation, as well as Head Start.

Currently, Head Start programming in Willmar is spread over three different locations and the partnership wants to bring it all under one roof. Also, while the program was one of only 10 Head Start programs in the country to receive a national expansion grant to grow the program's opportunities for infants and toddlers, United Community Action was unable to increase its numbers until it found the right space.

"When we first walked into the building, we fell in love with it," Brandt said.

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Brandt said United Community Action, which will be renting the space from Kandiyohi Power Cooperative, will use most of the building. The front portion of the building, with all the windows, will house the infants and toddlers, while the back half will be home to the preschool rooms. There will also be dedicated outdoor play areas for both age groups. The garage space will provide parking for not only the Head Start buses but for the partnership's vehicle donation program.

"We'll be filling the whole campus," Brandt said.

Head Start is an early childhood education program which assists families in need to get ready for the public school system. In its nine-county service area, United Community Action Partnership provides Head Start programming for more than 600 children.

The new Willmar location will allow for approximately 124 children to attend classes at the center and another 30 home-based children will be able to use the space for socialization and group activities.

"Head Start has a very strong family component," Brandt said.

The classrooms in Raymond and those with the New London-Spicer Schools will remain where they are.

The Willmar project would not have been possible without the help of Kandiyohi Power Cooperative.

"We are so grateful to Kandiyohi Power for being a partner, to be an advocate to our community," Brandt said.

In a news release about the project, Dale Anderson, Kandiyohi Power Cooperative board chairman, said working with United Community Action Partnership lives up to the electric cooperative's core principals.

"The seventh cooperative principal is concern for community," Anderson said. "There is great need for the services that UCAP provides and we are happy to be able to partner with them to make our community a better place to work and live."

Brandt said the hope is to have the new center open in early August, if everything continues to go as planned.

"It will be a huge benefit for children and families in the Willmar community," Brandt said.