On a suburban landscape dotted with cookie-cutter day care centers, Smoky Row Children's Center breaks the mold.
Owned by Worthington resident Judy Chosy and staffed by child-care professionals who have worked at the center for an average of 12 years, Smoky Row last week celebrated its 30th anniversary.
Current and former students, families and staff members gathered to mark the milestone and share memories of the place where joy and discovery become part of many children's day.
"There is no excuse for early childhood programs with environments that fail to stimulate children's delight and curiosity," Chosy said.
In the early 1980s, Chosy was an early childhood educator and the mother of four who knew the worry involved with leaving young children.
In 1983, her passion for the care and early education of children was realized when she founded the children's center, which serves families from Worthington, Dublin, Powell and northwest Columbus.
Over the years, it has expanded from a house to two buildings designed to be a place where children learn and are nurtured.
"It has been a great honor and privilege to employ so many wonderful people over 30 years, and I deeply appreciate their loyalty, passion and dedication to the mission of the center," Chosy said.
The current staff of 29 has an average of 12 years of experience at Smoky Row. Eight have been at the center for 20 years or more.
A recent study released by the Action for Children, a central Ohio nonprofit, showed that the average annual turnover at Franklin County day care centers is 81 percent.
Why do teachers come and stay?
Quality people want to work at quality places, Chosy said.
Being accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children since 1987 is a big plus when hiring, she said.
It is exciting to see former students return to enroll their own children, she said. Two current staff members once attended Smoky Row.
These are solid indicators that children in the center are having memorable and positive experiences, Chosy said.
The center serves as a training site for Columbus State Community College and Ohio State University. Students complete their student teaching there, under the guidance of the veteran staff.
Chosy presents workshops locally and nationally on the topic of how to hire and keep quality child-care staff.
When asked if she plans to retire soon, Chosy said she doesn't.
"Smoky Row Children's Center is a joyful place, like a big family of children, parents and teachers," she said. "I love my job."