Helen Gaede was content in her work as a homemaker. Her home economics degree from Tabor College prepared her well for the role, caring for her home and raising her son and daughter. But when she and her husband, Dennis, moved their family from Kansas to Shafter, California, a new opportunity arose—working one morning a week at Shafter MB Church’s new preschool. What started as a little side job in 1973 turned into a life calling for Gaede, who, at age 82, retired this year after 40 years at Kiddie College.
How did you get started at Kiddie College?
The couple heading it up had a director and a teacher, but they needed some aides to start. My own kids were in school and it was just one morning a week so I took their invitation. And it just grew from there.
What roles have you had?
After a while, the director approached me about teaching, so I went to Bakersfield College to get my degree and started teaching the younger ones. Then in the late 80s the director had to leave mid-year and they asked me to take her place. I had to go back to college to get my degree in administration.
The world children grow up in today is very different from when you started. Do you see changes in the children, too?
I don’t think they’ve really changed. At home they have all these new devices, but children’s basic needs don’t really change. They just need love and support and to know that God loves them. It’s the same with adults, everybody needs love and support.
Shafter is a small town. How does that affect you in your role?
I walk a lot and all of a sudden some car will drive by and a student will wave. I go to little league games and high school football games to watch my former students play. It’s amazing to watch the years go by so fast and to see the children I taught now raising their own family.
What Scripture has sustained you in your role?
When I had to go from teaching to being director and taking all the administration classes, I turned to Philippians 4 where it says that “God will supply all your needs” and “I can do all things through him who gives me strength.”
Why did you decide this was a good time to retire?
With the pandemic there have been all kinds of technology and new requirements. I felt like it was a good time to call it quits and do other things—a little more reading, quilting, projects around the house and maybe do a little traveling.
Kathy Heinrichs Wiest is a freelance writer who loves the smell of whole wheat bread in the oven, the feel of an orange being plucked from the tree and the view from her front porch in Kingsburg, California. On Sunday mornings you’ll find her in the fourth pew from the front on the left at Kingsburg MB Church, moved by the hymns and praise songs and inspired by the stories of God at work locally and around the world. She and her husband, Steve, own Dovetail Remodeling. They have two grown daughters, one son-in-law and a precious granddaughter.