Woonsocket, SD – Chances are you remember a grade school teacher or two. If you went to a day care in your home town, do you recall the special person who shepherded you through your early years? In Woonsocket, South Dakota, there is a woman whose tender loving care of kids over the years, make “Nellie” one of the most recognizable names and true creator of childhood memories all over town.
Small towns and bigger communities all across KELOLAND are working hard to attract young families to move to those communities. Day care is one of the most critical factors that they look for when moving. Well, we’re in Woonsocket, South Dakota today to talk to a woman who has been caring for kids for 45 years.
“It’s just hard to let ’em go cause it’s not just a job. And I have quit a couple of times to do something else for about a year or so, but you miss ’em. It’s like they’re a part of…they’re just kind of part of you. I know you’re not supposed to have that feeling, but you do,” Janell Boschee said. Janell Boschee, better known by the kids, parents and grandparents that love her as “Nellie”, provides has provided day care for over 45 years. in Woonsocket, South Dakota families. Families, including Emily Henriksen prays she never stops.
“You came back to Woonsocket, you and your husband, you raise your family here. You are working to make a difference. But that day care decision, it’s huge,” Mike Huether said. “It is, yeah. Because you want to feel comfortable with the people that you choose to technically raise, or help you raise your child,” Emily Henriksen said.
Community leader Gay Swenson has four grandkids cared for by Nellie. She says Nellie’s impact on the town’s growth is real. “If you don’t have daycare, people aren’t going to stay. That’s a simple fact. They might for a while carry their kids but then they eventually move,” Gay Swenson said. “Our teachers alone have had I don’t know how many kids. We got a young group. A lot of our older teachers have retired, and we filled it in with young people who are having kids.
Caring for young people is a team effort in Woonsocket. “They talk about the need for that and how hard it is in a small town…” said Huether. “Especially babies!” exclaimed Boschee. “…because not a lot of people do day care,” said Huether. “Explain that,” Said Huether. “There is only three of us and everyone… all…those other three do excellent work, but we do get overbooked and sometimes and stuff. We make it and rotate our shifts. So, we rely on each other a lot. If one takes off, we rely on the other one, hopefully, to help out taking an extra one or two.” said Boschee. “Wait a second here, you are saying WE,” Huether said. “The other three will pitch in and help out. We help each other out. We’re not greedy, I mean we just do. That’s the way it’s always been,” said Boschee.
Nellie cares for her kids the old-fashioned way. Emily fully supports her approach. “She said, ‘Well Mike, I kind of train them.’ And she said kind of that old-fashioned way of raising kids. Not everybody, you know, does that anymore but obviously, you value it,” said Huether. “Yep. She… you know, the way she did things with us when I went to day care and the way she does things now is pretty much the same thing. She has gotten a little softer in her age,” Henriksen said. “She has?” asked Huether. “She has yeah, but it is okay,” replied Henriksen.
It is an outside day care according to Nellie. “We go to the park a lot. We go to games, ball games. We walk a lot. And we just, I love the pool…absolutely love the pool. In fact, they even…my day care mothers bought a table at the pool with my name on it and a great big long bench when I quit the last time, in memory and I thought that is so nice ’cause there is no place I love more than the pool.
Cause…I don’t know, I love going up and being out ’cause I like those big smiles and just the laughter that is up there. It is worth every agonizing minute of getting ’em ready and bringing ’em back,” said Boschee.
“Nellie has to be exhausted at the end of the day, but the kids got to be exhausted, too,” Huether said. “Oh yes. And not only that, she is carrying lunches, you know and she just provides snacks for those kids all of the time out of her own pocket. She is a good one to make sure every kid has for sure Valentines, balloons, and all that stuff. She’s…she’s exceptional,” said Swenson.
“How in the world, though, do you maintain that energy?” asked Huether. “I am not a sleeper,” Boschee replied. “You’re not a sleeper?” asked Huether. “I don’t know. My mother worked until she was 91. When she passed away, she was still working. I think we just grew up with that. You just get up and go. We were brought up to work, I don’t know, I just… I don’t know if I have a fire, but I like what I do and I think that makes a lot of difference to what you do. ‘Cause this isn’t my only job, I work another job.” Boschee said. “Wait a second!” Huether exclaimed. “I do,” answered Boschee.
I don’t know how she does it, but it was easy to see how Nellie’s hard work and sacrifice makes a huge difference. Just ask Emily. “I graduated with 13, I think 7 or 8 of us went to Janelle’s, you know, so a large percentage of my class. It was a small class but we went to Nellies, everybody remembers stories from Nellies. We get together at our class reunions and we still talk about what we did at Nellies. The small-town feeling… I know that when I bring my children here, they’re loved and they’re taken care of and they get the discipline when they need it. You know, I don’t think you find that in bigger cities. So, we appreciate it and we love Nellie and, hopefully, she’ll keep taking the rest of the children we decide to have,” said Henriksen.
Caring for kids is certainly in Nellie’s DNA. Her impact on the Woonsocket community and the young families who live and thrive there is real. “Your kids” are blessed, so keep on loving them, Nellie.