Taking Care of Others and Taking Charge
“I love children. I’m used to being around children all the time.” As the oldest girl of 15 siblings, Zelma Brown grew up in a crowded household where adult responsibilities became part of her routine. “I did all the household chores: cooking, cleaning, everything. It was hard work, but it made me stronger and taught me how to take care of others. It taught me patience and understanding.”
At age 72, Zelma has been using her nurturing disposition to work with children for decades. She had been working at a local daycare, yet the commute was becoming more and more of a challenge. “I was getting tired of leaving early and coming home late.” She knew she needed to make a change. “At first, I was hesitant. But then I realized I knew a lot about the business so why couldn’t I start my own daycare? If I worked for someone else for this long, then why can’t I work for myself?”
Zelma opened her daycare, Brown’s Little Hearts Family Daycare in Ocala, Florida, in 2013. The timing coincided perfectly with the birth of her twin grandchildren. “They were my first kids at the daycare.” This enabled Zelma to not only spend more time with her family but allow her daughter to continue working with the knowledge that her young children were in a safe space.
As her business grew, Zelma knew she would need financial support to manage renovations and expenses. She discovered Accion through the organization’s direct mail campaign. “The loan application process was really easy. My loan consultant explained everything clearly and I didn’t think I would receive my loan as quickly as I did.” Zelma used her loan to install new windows and doors, making the space safer and comfortable for the children. She was also able to manage numerous bills and stay ahead financially.
Lessons to Live By
With a license for 10 children, Zelma continues to instill the lessons she learned as a child into the children she now takes care of. “I teach them how to get along with each other: how to share, how to hold the ball and hand it to their friend.” Zelma strives to provide the most important kind of education. “The best part is preparing the children to go to school and accept those that are different from them. I teach my children to follow the rules, but I also teach them love.”