by Chelsea Olson
Connie Froehle is one of the lucky people who has spent a lifetime in a career she loved.
She began providing licensed in-home daycare services in 1971 after the birth of her first child.
Since then she has spent 34 years opening her heart and home to many families of the Sartell community.
Recently, some of her daycare parents threw a retirement party for her, celebrating the woman they have come to know and love so well throughout the years.
“Having been a part of so many families for so long has been a blessing to me,” Froehle said.
When Froehle’s first child was 3 months old, she accepted her first client. Froehle originally saw daycare as a way to stay home with her daughter and experience all the “firsts” instead of returning to her job as a secretary. Her rate for services was $15 per week.
“Today I shake my head in bemusement,” Froehle said. “I cannot imagine how that could have made a significant difference to our income.”
Despite the initial lower earnings than an outside job, Froehle found she loved working with the children and developed it into a career.
Her daycare remained full for most of the 34 years she was an active provider in the community.
Froehle was forced to take some time off from her business for life events, such as the birth or death of family members, or when she broke her ankle and spent six weeks in a cast, yet the families have always remained faithful to her business and returned as soon as she was able to care for the children again.
“If I had a personal need requiring time away from daycare, the daycare parents bent over backwards to see that it worked out,” Froehle said. “I was so fortunate in having the parents of my daycare children so supportive and willing to work together to achieve a positive environment and program for their children.”
Froehle’s days usually started by 7 a.m. when the children began to arrive at her home.
The morning would consist of playtime and projects, along with a snack. After lunch Froehle would tell the children a story, while incorporating their names into the story as characters.
She remembers story time as one of her favorite activities with the children, who were always excited to “star” in the story.
“You should see the smiles when William turns into ‘Pirate Pete’ or Hailey goes for a ride in Santa’s sleigh!” she said.
Parents often arrived when the children were playing outside after their naps, enjoying the fresh air and sunshine.
This loving home environment was what kept parents coming back to her daycare year after year, as many were her clients for 12 years or more. Over time, Froehle got to know the families well.
She has attended sports games, dance recitals and school activities for the children she cared for.
She’s been a guest at graduations and weddings of the children as they’ve grown up, and she has even attended family funerals.
Many families consisted of the children of school administrators or teachers and Froehle developed close relationships with the parents as well as the children.
Froehle’s daycare clients recently planned a retirement party for her, which took place Dec. 29.
Tom Eibes, one of the daycare parents, took the initiative in planning the party, booking a room at a local restaurant and inviting the families who had been a part of Froehle’s life throughout the years.
“We consider ourselves extremely fortunate to have had Connie in our lives and in the lives of our children,” Eibes said. “My kids always looked forward to time with her and she has had a positive effect on everyone around her.”
Eibes presented Froehle with a commemorative plate bearing the inscription, “Thank you, Connie Froehle, for 34 years of child care in the Sartell community. From the children and families you have served, our greatest and most heartfelt appreciation. Your gentle and loving influence on our lives will carry forward for generations.”
Froehle was touched to receive the plate, along with a scrapbook showcasing a collection of letters and pictures from her daycare families.
The daycare mother who arranged the scrapbook for Froehle has not been a client in over a decade, yet she always arrives at Froehle’s door with a bouquet of flowers on her birthday.
“This is another example of the thoughtful and special parents I’ve been blessed to work with over the years,” Froehle said.
So many people attended the retirement party it had to be moved from the restaurant’s party room to the main room to accommodate everyone.
Froehle was touched to see the number of people who came to wish her well and celebrate her business.
Eibes and the other parents in attendance were more than happy to make Froehle’s day special and recognize her for her hard work and dedication.
“Connie is an unsung hero of our community,” Eibes said. “For 30 plus years she has quietly gone about her job performing small miracles every day. It is people like Connie that make it all possible, and for this she deserves our recognition.” For Froehle, having the support of so many families and having been a part of their lives is a blessing.
She is filled with positive sentiments and gratitude for the families who have made her daycare a success and brought joy to her life throughout the years.
“I am so grateful to the many parents who have enabled me to spend a career doing what I loved,” Froehle said. “Their entrusting me with their precious children has been the most touching compliment of my life.”