Going to miss those hugs
Nina Havens is retiring from the Gingerbread House after sharing 29 years of her life with the staff and children. She has been a part of its history - seeing the facility outgrow quarters and the numbers expand from 35 students to 300.
Nina admits she will miss the children, staff and parents. But she is looking forward to doing some of the things that she has put on hold for years. She has many memories of Gingerbread House and they will not be forgotten.
When Nina joined the Gingerbread staff in 1977, the daycare was located in Dixon-Eilers Hall on the campus of the Buena Vista College. At the time, Gingerbread occupied two rooms.
In the 1980s, the daycare moved to a former band building (now the alternative classroom building) between Farber and Otteman Funeral Home and the Storm Lake Junior High School (now South School.) The preschool class and school-age programs were in two rooms at Lakeside Presbyterian Church.
Nina has many memories of walking children back and forth between those two buildings.
In 1994 the present building on Oates Street was built. It was wonderful to have more room, she said - but the extra space didn't last long as the enrollment increased. An addition to the building was necessary soon after.
Nina has been the teacher of the preschool class designed for 4 year olds. She has spent a great of time preparing for the classes and admitted she won't miss that part of the job.
Nina worked under the direction of three dedicated administrators - Betty Ohlund, Denise Jennett and Mark Shea.
"All of them were very dedicated to having a quality daycare in Storm Lake," she commented.
There are so many things she has enjoyed about the job she has had for the past 29 years.
"I enjoyed the hugs and greetings I received from the 4 year olds in the morning, the dedication of the staff to serve the community and the appreciation expressed by the parents for a safe and pleasant experience for their young ones in their absence and the flexible work schedule when, in the first years, I had my own children coming home after school."
Nina doesn't have any big plans for retirement but is looking forward to being able to enjoy her young grandchildren and their school activities.
"Gingerbread House is a wonderful asset to the community," she said. "It serves so many families from the here and surrounding communities. It's been very rewarding to be a part of it all - seeing it grow. I know what this place means to the parents."
Nina and husband Paul have two children - Brian (and Sandy) Havens, Omaha, Neb. and Heather (and Chris Carr), Aurelia. They have five grandchildren - Drew and Ben Havens, and Talli, Emmi and Kiki Carr.
Nina's last day will be Friday. She was honored earlier this week by the Gingerbread Board and the Chamber of Commerce.