An Open Door
Growing up in Harlem with six siblings, Elizabeth’s life was not always comfortable. “Poverty levels were out of this world.” Yet despite the difficulties she faced, one opportunity arose that Elizabeth could not only invest in, but that would impact her for the rest of her life. “There was this one particular school that provided a music program. I played the flute and I loved it. It changed my way of thinking.”
Throughout the years, Elizabeth and her mother Olean continued working in the childcare industry. As mothers, their experience and passion for childcare continued to grow both professionally and personally. Meanwhile, in their neighborhood in the South Bronx, they began to see an unmet need: the need for a space that directly provided opportunities to children in the community, the same kind Elizabeth was given as a child, that enabled her to realize her own potential and self-worth. While both women enjoyed their current careers, they knew they wanted to fill this need within their community, and the only way to do so was to start their own daycare. “I thought about Mom and her passion for childcare and I thought we have something here. The same care that we give to our children, let’s give it to other children.”
Giving Back Instead of Giving Up
Elizabeth and Olean founded O&E Childcare in 2013. Despite their extensive childcare backgrounds, starting their own business was a new experience, one with unexpected challenges. “It was a struggle for us financially, but something kept telling me that we cannot give up. We have families who rely on us and once we start something, we don’t necessarily give up easily.” Elizabeth and Olean were referred to Accion by their banker at TD Bank. The loan that Elizabeth and Olean received allowed them to replace rundown equipment for the children with new items, including music instruments, enabling them to increase enrollment. “Accion gave us hope. It meant a lot to us because we were able to keep moving. It feels great that we’re today finally seeing the fruition of a vision from so many years ago.”
Now with five employees, O&E Childcare provides otherwise unavailable opportunities to the community it serves. Each staff member is pursuing their own career in childcare, so the daycare not only provides them with a steady income, but valuable experience in the industry they’re most passionate about. With transportation services and a full day of supervision, O&E Childcare also enables parents (of the children enrolled) to maintain full-time jobs and continue to provide financially for their families.
Lastly, the 15 children enrolled receive tutoring, music, dance, and exercise activities that build their self-confidence. Opportunities like the one Elizabeth had as a child. “This is a poor community, yet we provide things to enhance these children’s lives. It doesn’t matter where they come from or what they face, it gives them a chance to be successful. Bringing resources and hope to a child’s life, it means everything.”