Top quality, affordable child care is critical to every community. Part of the legacy of the receding pandemic is the growing recognition that skilled child care is absolutely essential to children, their families and communities, as well as to the economy. Skilled child care is important so that parents can work, knowing that their kids are being cared for in safe environments in which they grow and learn.
For years now, Grand Avenue Club has been proud of its employment partnership with Renaissance Child Development Center, a fine day care center on the eastside of Milwaukee; a place for pre-school age children during the school year, where during the summer months, they are joined by school age children.
Renaissance offers the children a safe and cozy space, skilled care givers, and the pre-school experiences that create a good foundation for learning.
Among Renaissance's Essential Workers are 2 Grand Avenue Club members: Jackie Exum and Belinda Washington.
Jackie and Belinda first met in GAC's Culinary Unit, where they prepared and served food to their hungry (and always appreciative!) GAC colleagues. There, they both discovered that they liked working with food. Jackie then went on to a paid position at 600 EAST Café on Wisconsin Avenue, just blocks away from GAC and Belinda accepted a position serving lunches to the kids at Renaissance.
When school let out very early in the summer, the number of children enrolled in the Renaissance Summer Program increased so much that the job of serving lunch became too much for one person. So, Renaissance turned to GAC, creating an additional job for a GAC member.
Jackie joined her friend Belinda on the job.
Jackie was pleased. "Working in the Culinary Unit showed me the joys of discipline, the value of getting up every day and having something to do. I like the little kids. The smiles on their faces say 'I'm having a nice day' and I know that I am part of that."
Although Belinda did not bring a vocational goal with her to the GAC Culinary Unit, she welcomed being able to go to work. "When I worked in Culinary, I got used to having something to do. Works keeps me focused on positive thinking."
The reunion of Jackie and Belinda at Renaissance has strengthened their friendship. They have a lot in common. Just 2 years apart in age (Jackie is 60 and Belinda is 58), both were raised in Milwaukee and are graduates of Milwaukee high school programs. Both mothers and grandmothers, they have done plenty of cooking for their families, but enjoy GAC and Renaissance cooking even more! Their friendship is integral to their work satisfaction to be sure, and they have successfully navigated the pleasures and challenges of a very close friendship at work.
Jackie says, "Belinda is a really nice person, but our friendship works best when she's the boss."
Belinda does not disagree, "She's right. I always have to remind her, 'Don't put the chicken over the rice. Put it on the side. Little kids are picky. They want their rice separate!"
Both Jackie and Belinda come to GAC every single morning before work and then go to work together on The Hop. They usually partake in our fabulously delicious and healthy breakfasts in the Culinary Unit, thereby enjoying being served.
Our five day a week breakfasts--served at no cost to GAC colleagues and staff--have become a wonderful way for many of us to start our day, to take pleasure in the Milwaukee Bucks' victories and to speculate about the championship. We also comment on the weather, and marvel at the diverse and healthy dishes served at breakfast.
For all of us, the current discussions about Essential Child Care workers--95% of whom are women--evoke the pleasure that our friends Jackie and Belinda take in their work. We have learned a lot from them and take great pride in them and our lengthy partnership with Renaissance Child Development Center!