Woman's success in business lets her help others achieve

March 05, 2001|By TaNoah Morgan | TaNoah Morgan,SUN STAFF

Every day when Yvonne Minge goes home, she knows she's helped somebody grow.

Maybe it was the 3-year-old boy who needed to learn how to wash his hands, or the 4-year-old girl who can now distinguish red from blue.

Or it could be the twenty-something staffer and mother who completed her coursework in early childhood education because Minge and her rapidly growing Bright Beginnings Children's Centers paid for the course and offered free child care while the mother went to school.

"One of my goals in life is to help people move forward in life and to make them feel special," said Minge, who in two years has opened three child care centers in Howard County that teach more than 170 children. "I try to make sure we provide a safe, nurturing, happy, clean environment, but you don't get that unless your staff is happy, too."

In an industry in which state and county officials say the pay for workers is low, the turnover rate is high and education is a must, Minge is working against the odds to develop a trained and satisfied staff to provide quality child care at her three locations that are nearly overflowing with energetic children. But working against the odds is not unusual for Minge, a one-time single mother who worked her way through school and up the child care career ladder to find herself owning a chain of centers.

"It was never my life dream to work with kids, but I found it was my niche," Minge said.

Soon after taking a position as an assistant teacher in 1987 at a center that offered free care for her children, she decided that providing jobs and helping people would be her goals. That didn't become a reality, though, until April 1999, when she leased space from the Columbia Association and opened the first Bright Beginnings in Owen Brown, across the street from her home.

With 26 employees, Minge is providing jobs and free child care to mothers who are where she once was - untrained in a career path and bankrupt after paying a sitter. But Minge is going a step further.

She is also paying for the education and books of her staff members, in hopes of developing a better-trained and more stable staff, and to encourage the young men and women to achieve.

According to the Howard County Child Care Resource Center, Minge is on the right track in dealing with some of the toughest problems in the child care industry - lack of training and high staff turnover.

"Any benefit would be a very effective tool. It's all helpful," said Debbie Yare, the center's program manager. "She's doing her darndest to keep employees and recruit employees."

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