SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KCAU) — From cook to teacher, custodian to director, a Sioux City woman has played several roles at a local daycare for decades.
For the past 43 years, Mary Elizabeth Day Care and Preschool have been Jane Heider’s home way from home.
“I started out as the teacher in the three-year-old classroom, and I was here one year, and then the director left to go to teach into teach in the public school system, so then I took her job, so then I’ve been the director ever since,” said Heider.
But Heider also has to wear many other hats.
“I open the daycare center, and I do the cooking. I teach in the preschool classroom,” said Heider.
Heider said she’ll try just about anything to provide a safe environment for her kids.
“One year, we had four little girls. We gave them a bath almost every day when they came because they didn’t get baths at home. And those little girls, they loved somebody just brushing their hair, and making them feel good, and putting little barrettes in it,” said Heider.
Heider is a proud alum of Briar Cliff University.
“I volunteered at Tommy Dale Memorial Hospital, and that was with severe and profound handicapped children. And I really felt like there was a need for me to be there,” said Heider.
After graduating, Heider took a position at a now-defunct childcare center in the exact same building where Mary Elizabeth stands today.
“It’s so interesting to me that I would be there, and then years later, I would get a job, and it would be here…it’s a strange, kind of, you know, coincidence there,” said Heider.
After five years serving in other childcare centers, Heider went back to her roots at the current home of Mary Elizabeth, a nonprofit which actually got its start in 1914.
“We have had third generations. We’ve had people that, you know: ‘Oh, I came here when I was little,’ and it’s the grandma bringing the child,” said Heider.
Since that time, Heider said the demand for quality childcare has only gotten bigger.
“There is a ‘childcare desert’–and we have it in Iowa,” said Heider.
So has the price tag.
“Childcare nowadays cost as much as it does to send somebody to college,” said Heider.
That’s why she said she continues to fight for affordability.
“We charge parents based on their income,” said Heider.
With no plans of stopping anytime soon.
Everybody deserves to be loved by somebody. There’s always families, there’re always children who’ve needed me, and that’s why I–that’s why I stay,” Heider said.