In 1965, Jean Coleman was a young military wife with five children; her youngest had just entered school. She was active in her children’s school activities, her church, community and Church Women United. She was fortunate that she could have help in her home, but dismayed that her employee had no place for her child while she worked.
At about the same time, at a CWU May Fellowship Day program, she heard a plea from the Director of the Houston County DFCS for low cost daycare for women with low paying jobs who could not find adequate or affordable care for their children.
Jean was captivated by this need and took up the challenge. She talked to businessmen, city leaders, churches, civic groups, neighbors, friends—anyone who she thought might be willing to help. The city offered an empty home in the public housing area on Oak Grove Ave, a local attorney drafted a non-profit charter, and with the support of several members of CWU they were able to open the Warner Robins Day Care Center for 20 children who paid $20 per week to attend. They had two staff, a Director and Teacher they paid $25 and $20 per week respectively, and went to grocery stores and other groups to get donations for food.
Funds were raised to purchase basic furnishings and supplies. They operated a Thrift Store out of a storage shed and trailer to bring in funds to help keep things going. At times, on pay day, it meant going up and down Watson Blvd asking businesses for donations to meet payroll. And when that didn’t work, she would gather some Board members up to go to the bank and borrow money on a
“ signature loan” with confidence the money would come in to pay it off. During the early days, Jean was also involved in day-to-day activities. On one occasion she borrowed Trinity’s school bus for a field trip to a local farm. She was not deterred by not having driven a full-size school bus before, and it was not until they prepared to come home that she realized she did not know how to put it in reverse. She has often laughed as she spoke of driving the bus around the farm land in circles until they could get it headed back home.
Jean’s husband, Bob, was transferred and the family left for several years. During this time the Center expanded to two sites. When she returned to Warner Robins, she picked up where she left off, advocating for the Center and it’s needs.
Jean will be the first to say, the Center has survived because of the efforts of untold others who have shared her passion and worked to keep it going. She entered the Real Estate field and as a successful Business owner, continued making Warner Robins Day Care Center her number one community priority.
When the Center Board began to dream of a combined facility that would make it possible to both increase the number of children served and have a modern, child-centered facility, Jean again picked up the torch to find a place. She looked at every building in Warner Robins that might be adapted for child care and again talked to local and state government officials, businesses and others seeking a new site.
She helped organize a building fund campaign and initiated the first Golf Tournament to raise funds for it. Even as Parkinson’s Disease set in and took its toll, she pushed herself to do everything she could to bring about the new facility and in 2006 we opened our new building and became Cherished Children Education Center. She would readily tell you seeing the children in their new home was the highlight of her public life.
In the fall of 2015, we opened a second facility, Cherished Children, Too and we continue to grow. We estimate that some 1500 children have been served since the Center opened and as many as 900 families been helped to move up the ladder of independence because of that initial dream and passion.
Although Jean is no longer with us, we like to think she is looking down from Heaven with great love and pride at how we are continuing her legacy.
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