Flickinger Learning Center enjoys changes

A new façade funded by HNI and other donors is an obvious improvement at Flickinger Learning Center, but even bigger changes are in the works for the nonprofit after-school program based at 413 Mulberry Avenue in Muscatine.
Flickinger, which opened in 2003, last year served 140 at-risk and underprivileged elementary school students at the organization’s main site and eight satellite centers operated throughout the community. Plans are underway to add 100 more children to the program during the upcoming school year.
There are a lot of kids who have that need,” said Danni Zumwalt, Flickinger’s executive director.
Last year, the Muscatine Community School District contracted with Flickinger to establish after-school centers at Jefferson, Washington, Franklin, and Madison elementary schools, in addition to a center at Spring Valley Bible Camp and the main Flickinger site on Mulberry. The organization’s 16 part-time employees and many, many volunteers helped the students with a variety of tasks, including practicing basic letter sounds, working on math lessons, and character-development programs.
“They’ve proven that we’re being effective,” Zumwalt said of the school district, which monitored the progress of students who participated last year in the after-school program.
For 2016-2017, district officials will pick the at-risk students in the kindergarten through third grades who will attend the after-school program at Flickinger’s satellite sites. Up to 40 children in grades K-5 will be helped on a first-come, first-served basis at the main Flickinger center.
“It’s controlled chaos, but the kids are happy and they’re safe and they’re doing well,” Zumwalt said of what the sites are like during the school year.
And, thanks to the new façade, students will be safe, warm, and dry for years to come at the main Flickinger center.
“We just wanted to fix our windows,” Zumwalt said. “We would fix what we could, but it had gotten to the point where we had to do something.”
Whenever it rained or snowed, moisture came in through the windows, creating potential hazards because of the computers and other electronics in the building. In the winter, cold wind seeped in, adding to the expense of trying to keep the center warm enough for children.
Late in 2015, Paul Brooks, the center’s assistant director, started discussing the needed repairs with donors who were interested.
“It was like, ‘Why don’t you also do this and this?’ ” Zumwalt said of discussions about the project. “It got really big. It kept getting bigger and bigger.”
It became obvious the center couldn’t afford to do all of the work that everyone agreed needed to be done. That’s when HNI joined the effort. Zumwalt said she and Brooks met with Gary Carlson, HNI’s vice president of member and community relations.
“He said, ‘You do really great things. You should look good,’” she said of Carlson.
“Everything got gutted and replaced,” Zumwalt said. “And it looks great. That’s always nice.”
Grow Muscatine is a not-for-profit organization focused on enabling Muscatine’s prosperous growth and publicizing the good things happening in our community. Find out more at www.growmuscatine.com or on Facebook: Grow Muscatine.