Project Oasis is a public-private community solution that addresses the community’s “childcare desert” by increasing access to, and affordability of, high-quality childcare opportunities in Yamhill County. The term “childcare desert” refers to not having enough licensed childcare facilities to support the population of families in need of childcare. Project Oasis derives its name from a shared community vision, one where “an oasis” of childcare options exist.

Project Oasis began with DCI International in Newberg, Oregon. For over 39 years DCI, a family-owned company, has provided high-quality dental tools, dental parts and operatory equipment to customers worldwide. DCI owners, John and Janelle Spencer, value exceptional customer care as well as a commitment to their employees.

Their commitment to employees prompted DCI’s quest to secure affordable childcare for employees who missed work to care for their children. This was an issue before the pandemic and became an even bigger issue as schools and childcare centers closed, forcing employees to take even more time off work and sometimes quitting work altogether.

In 2020, Tim Murphy, DCI’s VP of Business Operation, reached out to Abisha Stone, SEDCOR’s Economic Development Manager for Yamhill County, to discuss how DCI’s childcare issues were affecting the business. According to Abisha, “DCI stood to lose significant momentum in the marketplace if it did not maintain staffing levels.” Abisha connected DCI with Carla Munns, Principal and Founder of C-Suite Consulting and Jessica Barr, Principal and Founder of Little Bird Childcare. Carla’s role was to provide consultation on implementing a successful project, connect with community organizations, advocate and promote the project, and write funding grants. Jessica’s role was to provide information on how to open, design, and run childcare centers, and operate and manage the new center in McMinnville. Abisha also connected the team with critical partners and funding opportunities. In addition to CARES Act funding and other county funds, the Spencer Family Foundation and DCI generously donated to the effort. This collaboration and funding led to the creation of Project Oasis. Jessica stated “Abisha was the first voice who had a plan and opened many doors for this project.”

In 2021, Project Oasis funded a new childcare facility operated by Little Bird in McMinnville, Oregon. The center is state-of-the-art and has the capacity to serve 100 children ages 6 weeks to 12 years of age, although most of the children are under 6 years old. Intentionally designed to provide new, modern, and high-quality equipment, the addition of this facility increases the community’s overall capacity to meet childcare needs. Families feel proud and dignified to have their children attend this childcare center regardless of their socio-economic status and any financial assistance support. Carla added, “Project Oasis provides scholarships that offer support for families who need it the most, and/or do not qualify for existing financial assistance programs. This support makes it possible for parents to maintain jobs, attend school, and /or participate in trade and training activities. Project Oasis Scholarship Program is unique in its design, basing eligibility on a child’s experiences and social determinants of health.” Currently, three childcare centers participate in the scholarship program: Little Bird Childcare, Lafayette; Mi Escuelita in Newberg; and Little Bird Childcare, McMinnville. The future of Project Oasis looks bright with plans for opening an additional childcare facility in Newberg, envisioned as a “one stop” for family support including health and dental services.

Project Oasis is an excellent example of how a family-owned, traded sector business drives community change. DCI, with the assistance of public and private partners, tackled the “childcare desert” and identified solutions that have broad and lasting impact. As the Project Oasis team states, “our ultimate goal is that Project Oasis will inspire other partners and communities to do something similar.” Congratulations to everyone involved with this project! For more information on Project Oasis, or to apply for a scholarship, visit