By Linda Scherer
WINSTED, MN Carol Kappel has been taking care of children most of her life. It is something she loves doing and one of the reasons she started Kappel’s Daycare at her home in Winsted 43 years ago.
This year she was chosen 2010 McLeod County Childcare Provider of the year. At a special banquet at the Ramada hotel in Bloomington May 1, she was recognized for the positive impact she has made in the lives of the young children in her care and for serving as mentor for other licensed daycare providers.
She was nominated for the honor by parents like Marc and Nancy Fasching who have two children, Thomas and Ellie, who attend Kappel’s Daycare.
“Our children are shown love and respect in her (Kappel’s) home, and they in turn, learn these skills too, building their self-esteem and a strong base to go out into the world and be great citizens,” Nancy Fasching said. “The kids become part of Carol’s family. I can’t think of a more deserving individual to receive this honor.”
Providing a fun, safe, and healthy environment is Kappel’s goal each day, which means her work begins long before the children start arriving at 7:30 a.m.
Kappel is up at 5:30 a.m. and, following a cup of coffee, she begins her baking and meal planning for the day.
“I always know what I am having for all of the meals before the kids come. I get everything lined up so I have time to play with the kids,” Kappel said. “If I had to stop and do all of those things, I would never have time to do much else.”
A variety of activities keep the children entertained each day. There is singing, dancing, fort building, playing cards, crafts, art projects, reading books, cooking, playing baseball, decorating for the seasons, and celebrating events like birthdays and holidays.
On Tuesdays, the group goes to the library, which has a special story hour each week. The children also visit the seniors at the care center once a month.
“Carol connects the kids to their hometown of Winsted,” Nancy Fasching said. “They make daily trips to the post office, hardware store, and other shops around town. This teaches the kids how to behave in public and to meet and greet other people not to mention giving them pride in their community.”
Each summer Kappel sets up a lemonade stand in front of her home. All of the proceeds go to the soldiers serving in the military.
“It is a great way she teaches patriotism, business, entrepreneurship, cooking, math and customer relations, all in one day,” Nancy Fasching said.
If Kappel were to choose the one thing that was the most important for the children to learn while attending her daycare, it would be to respect each other.
“To play and get along with other people. That is part of respect,” Kappel said. “I think it is a little harder for them to play together today. You have to teach them to do that.”
She does not allow electronic games to be used while the children are at her daycare, because they are made for only one person and require little social interaction. TV is only watched as a group and only when there are special movies or shows to watch.
“When the older children come here, at first they ask for the TV all of the time. After awhile they just forget about it and never ask,” Kappel said.
The younger children are always learning from the older ones, according to Kappel.
Singing is an example that Kappel gave. The two favorite songs the children sing are “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” and “God Bless America.”
The younger children might not be able to sing the words right away, but once they start talking the children can sing the songs from the time they are about 2-years-old, Kappel said.
This isn’t the first time Kappel has been named McLeod County Childcare Provider of the Year. In 1996, she was also chosen.
That was while Jeff and Connie Sterner were bringing their daughter, Samantha (Sammy) to Kappel’s Daycare. Sammy was only 6 months old in August 1988, when she first started coming, and she continued to come to Kappel’s until she was 11 years old. During the school year she attended daycare before and after school, and during the summer months she would come full time.
“As a first-time mother, I was so nervous leaving my infant child,” Connie Sterner said. “But Carol knew how to calm my nerves and became a wonderful mentor, not only to my child, but to the new mom, as well.”
“She handed out just as much love as she did guidance and discipline. The children just loved her. She is a woman we have a lot of admiration and respect for.”
Today, Sam Sterner attends St. Cloud State University, where she is a senior. She still finds the time to stop in and visit Carol when she is in town.
“Carol was a phenomenal childcare provider. She cared about us as if we were her own,” Sam said. “I enjoyed staying with her because she incorporated learning and discipline into a fun and enjoyable environment,” Sam said. “She made each of us feel special, and encouraged us to the point that we felt empowered. She goes above and beyond, not because she has to, but because she just genuinely cares.”
Kappel is also a mentor to other childcare providers, as well as a liaison in the community who lines up all of the training and continuing education necessary to be a licensed provider.
Even with 43 years of experience in daycare, Kappel still likes to learn new things. She takes advantage of classes offered to keep up on what is available.
Kappel has been taking care of children since she was 10 years old doing baby-sitting for the neighbors in Murdock, where she grew up.
“I would help the neighbors when they had their babies,” Kappel said. “I would stay with the children and go to school with them on the bus.”
Following graduation, for three years, she took care of one family’s three children. When she was ready to make a change in her life, she decided to move to Winsted, where a friend of hers from Murdock had moved.
She applied for, and got a job at the Winsted sewing factory, where she was able to make enough money to pay the $80 a month rent for her room on the upper level of the Hirsch building (now Duran’s Photography).
Baseball was a sport she enjoyed and she made it to many of Winsted’s games. It was where she met her husband, Fran. They married in 1966.
When Kappel’s daughter, Connie was born, she decided to start her own daycare so she could stay at home with her baby.
Today, Kappel’s only regret in all the years that she has done daycare is not being able to attend many of her children’s school activities and performances.
“I never thought about taking time off telling the parents that I had something important to attend for my kids,” Kappel said. “Now, if my grandkids have something going on, I am there so I can make up a little bit for back then. And I make time for Frannie and I, too,” Kappel said.
A favorite story of Kappel’s happened when Connie was married. Kappel was all dressed up, ready to go to the wedding, when she walked by two boys at her daycare who were playing outside.
“One of the boys looked up and said, ‘I didn’t know she looked like that,’” Kappel said.
Kappel’s Daycare, in some ways, has been a family business.
Fran Kappel retired 14 years ago and has been helping Carol regularly at the daycare. She is very grateful for the support and help he has given her.
“For many years he came home to a house full of kids,” Kappel said. “Now, he is a big help and the kids just love him.”
Kappel also credits her children for their acceptance of her career choice, and their willingness to share their time with her with others. “My kids grew up with all of the daycare kids, and the younger kids just idolized them,” Kappel said.
“We used their rooms and their beds, changing sheets many times in a day for napping.”
Fran and Carol have four children and eight grandchildren:
• Connie Sather, who lives in Minneapolis;
• Terre Krause, who lives in Lonsdale;
• Dan, who is married to Audrey Hirsch of Howard Lake. They live in St. Michael; and
• Dennis Kappel of Winsted.