6/18/2013 12:42:00 PM DC Lions name Cheryl Gillard Citizen of the Year
By Ruth Hanson
Cheryl Gillard took a break from planting flowers in front of her house to pose for a picture. She had been chosen Dodge Center's Citizen of the Year by the Dodge Center Lion's Club and that and finally getting a sunny day, made her smile bright.
Her ten day care kids gathered around her.
It is a job that she does every day of the week from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. five days a week.
"I love what I do," she said softly. "There are only a few down sides to this job - so many rainy days this year and an occasional runny nose. I've been a family day care mom for 23 years and I just may do this for 10 more years."
She was born in Faribault at St. Lucas Hospital and grew up in Wasioja. She went to school kindergarten through senior high in Dodge Center.
"I had Winnie Osborn for six week kindergarten," she said. "She was a dear."
Gillard went to Rochester Vo-Tech to become a dental assistant and worked for 10 1/2 years in Rochester. Then she worked at Dodge County Social Services for five years.
"I met Mark in 1984 and we were married at St. John's Catholic Church in 1985," she said. "And yes - we have been living happily ever since."
Mark retired from construction work last fall.
They moved to their home on Central Avenue in 1990 on Labor Day weekend. She started day care on Tuesday. She had decided to stay home for a year after their daughter Johanna was born. She was just over a year old when they moved. Emily was born when Johanna was 21 months old.
Kira, her first day care child, was nine months old and crawling when she joined them.
The licensing process began and the phone began to ring. She was licensed for six children the first year and for 10 the second year.
"One of the things I like best about this job is being outside so much," she said. "That's why the constant rain has been such a downer. Given decent weather, we are outside almost every day. I have swings and climbers as well as bikes, trikes and scooters on the concrete and to the neighbor's corner out there. We are out pretty much every morning and afternoon at least for a while."
She has been known to take her group to the library Tuesday morning in the rain, umbrellas and all. They go to the swimming pool whenever it is open - in the mornings for lessons and again in the afternoon after naps. They play at Cobra Country there and in the other parks in town.
Once in a while she walks with the kids to the Sunshine Foods grocery store or to the school play ground.
"Yes, that's a nice mile walk to either one," she said, smiling.
The kids keep the bird feeders outside the kitchen table window filled, putting little cans of bird feed out once a week. The birds who come are many and colorful and fun to watch at lunch time
When Cheryl isn't busy with her day care kids, she isn't still. She is a member of the Dodge County Licensed Child Care Association. She has been the president twice as well as vice president, secretary, treasurer, parliamentarian and now, program and training coordinator. She sets up training at every meeting. The meetings rotate among Dodge Center, Kasson-Mantorville, Hayfield and West Concord.
"I am currently taking mentor training so that I will be able to mentor providers old and new," she said.
The Association has about 25 people at each meeting. There are 90-some licensed providers in Dodge County. Gillard has been an active member since 1991.
She is a lay minister at St. John's, where she serves communion, lectors, greets and is on the finance committee.
She retired from working with Girls Scouts last fall.
She is a member of the Chamber of Commerce and, since 2009, has been their representative and co-chair of the Dodge Center Royalty Committee.
"And I mow the lawn and blow snow," she said. "I'm happy doing it as long as the machinery works. Mark is good at fixing things.
In her 'spare' time, Gillard enjoys flower gardening, as her front yard shows. She also does cross stitching. She makes a cross stitched pillow for each niece, nephew and day care kid.
Her bucket list is long. She might decide to take a ride in a hot air balloon. She would like to visit the East Coast - Maine, New York City and Niagara Falls.
"Maybe the girls and Mark and I could travel on Highway 2 across the northern part of the United States," she said. "And then there's Ireland."
The girls have flown the nest. Johanna is working on her Master's Degree at Winona State University where she works as an admissions counselor. Emily works at St. Mary's Hospital as a personal care assistant while she works on her prerequisites to get her nursing degree.
Gillard laughed and added, "I'm happy doing what I'm doing and looking forward to the future. I'm honored to be named the Citizen of the Year."