Local Women: Juanita Castillo- For the Love of Children

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Occupation: Director of Small Folks 
Residence: Lansing 
Family: Husband, William; daughter, Sannette; granddaughters, Martina and Natalie
 Hobbies: Tennis, biking, exercising Juanita Castillo has been director of Small Folks daycare on Pennsylvania Avenue since 1978. She is dedicated to helping children and families in the community who may not be able to afford childcare. Along with her work at Small Folks, she makes sure to stay active in the community in other ways. She is the secretary on the board of directors at Cristo Rey Community Center and wishes to stay involved in making sure things go well in her community. Tell me about Small Folks Small Folks is a daycare that began in 1974 in Old Town. It is a nonprofit targeting childcare for working women. It was something that started due to the state of the economy to help women who perhaps couldn’t afford daycare. Small Folks puts an emphasis on blending different cultures to show children that we’re all the same. There’s also emphasis on the idea that children with disabilities can still excel; for example, autistic children can be put into mainstream classrooms. If you put a child in that setting, to simply watch and observe to learn — it’s a beautiful thing. Eight years ago Small Folks moved to its current location, and we’re still giving back. It’s a way for us to empower parents in the community. How do you think Small Folks has been beneficial to the community If parents don’t have money for childcare but want it, I take them in. I am that way because you need to change for the times. When the economy is down, you have to be able to reach out and help people. We also greatly believe in the child and to set a good example. Our center is for the children, and again, you have to reach out and help each other. Everybody is welcome at Small Folks. You can be the richest or poorest, and there is a place for you here. How did you become interested in childcare?
 I was going to be a nurse when I moved to Michigan. I went to work at a daycare and ended up changing my major to child development at Lansing Community College. I love people, and I love little ones. I became passionate about helping children, and I believe I have the gift of being able to control a child — being able to intervene and help out a parent. I love what I do, and I could never see myself in any other job. I love making a difference in children’s lives.
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Tags: juanita castillo, Local Women