Child care expert celebrates family business

July 8, 2008 8:49:24 PM PDT
Willie Finch has been caring for children all of her life.Once Finch decided to make a business of it, she made a name for herself in Chicago's North Lawndale community and more broadly, across the Midwest.

Now generations of Finch's family are following in her footsteps.

In 1962, Chicagoan Willie Finch was working as a beautician while raising her own six children and, at the same time, providing day care for youngsters of her friends at her West Side home.

"At the time I gave them a notice that I wouldn't be able to keep them any longer...and they had a meeting on me asking me if I would take the lead in opening up a day care center for the West Side," said Finch, Child Care Center co-founder.

Along with her husband, Finch opened Les Finch's Learning Tree Child Care Center in a 18,000 square-foot space that was once a supermarket, a business that was firebombed during a riot in 1969.

"I want a person to feel comfortable when they leave their child with me. And when they walk through the doors my job is to make sure they feel comfortable," said Finch.

When Willie Finch opened a facility in 1970 in the North Lawndale community, over night it became the largest day care center in the Midwest.

Operation of the center has become a family affair.

"At the age of nine, instead of me being outside playing hop scotch or whatever I wanted to do she had me downstairs teaching the kids abc and that has been her dream ever since I can remember," said daughter Darleen Gail Miller.

"I think it's amazing what she's done and all the things she's accomplished in her life, in these 38 plus years here in this building. There are no words to describe the accomplishments," said James Moore, one of Finch's 15 grandchildren and a University of Illinois business major looking to take over the family business.

"My concern is for our boys and girls to reach a certain goal. So when a child walks into this school I have goals I want them to achieve before they walk out," said Finch.


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