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Facing closure, West Yellowstone's only child care center gets lifeline from building donation

Little Rangers Learning Center is currently experiencing a funding shortfall of $5,000 per month.
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Posted at 12:04 PM, Jan 18, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-18 15:46:01-05

WEST YELLOWSTONE — There’s new hope that the Little Rangers child care center in West Yellowstone, which is in danger of closing because of a funding shortfall, will be saved.

That salvation is coming from the West Yellowstone non-profit group that owns and runs the Yellowstone Studies Center. Board member Clyde Seely said, “We would really like to gift this facility to the Little Rangers Learning Center.”

Little Rangers Director Mia Bugajski said, “I had no clue. I had no clue that this was coming.”

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Seely calls it a way for Little Rangers to remain open for years to come.

The Yellowstone Studies Center is in a building that also houses a restaurant, a physical therapy center, and two apartments, all paying rent.

The center itself has a big kitchen, classrooms, dorms, showers and more, all designed for visiting students.

Seeley said it was built, “So that they can go in on field trips into Yellowstone Park and see all of the majesty that Yellowstone has to offer.”

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Clyde Seely

The center fell into disuse during the COVID pandemic and has not recovered. Seely says the board for the non-profit is now down to just two members. He says that’s because over the years, members have passed away or have retired. So what will the daycare center do with the building?

Bugajski said, “The board is still discussing this.” While Seely said, “I would imagine that they would want to sell it.”

Whatever happens, the result will help to fill a $ 5,000-a-month gap in Little Rangers funding.

Bugajski said that would keep the center afloat. She added, “It would not get rid of the need to fundraise or do grants or anything like that. We would still need to continue to do that, but we would have a cushion.”

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Mia Bugajski

Seely noted the importance of Little Rangers not just for parents but also for West Yellowstone businesses. He said, “Without that, it will affect the workforce. Parents would have to stay home to take care of their children.”

Bugajski said new funding will calm the concerns of parents. She said, “It gives them some faith in us that we can continue to grow and be here.”

Seely said that people may not remember that 20 years ago, the Yellowstone Studies Center began with some plastic bison. He said that included, “27 cow, buffalo, and 10 calves.”

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One plastic bison model remains in the Yellowstone Studies lounge. The others were painted by artists from across the west and then sold to raise more than $160,000 for projects in West Yellowstone. One of those was the Study Center. Now, that center, which for years served advanced education may soon help to fund education for some of West Yellowstone’s youngest learners.

Seely said, “It is rewarding, personally, for us to be able to gift this to another nonprofit.”

Bugajski added, “I think it's amazing. It's amazingly generous, and it's going to help us out.”

You can watch an extended interview with Clyde Seely at this link.

For an extended interview with Mia Bugajski, click here.