The children of North Minneapolis are saying goodbye to a long-time friend this month. Oralee Law—better known as Ms. Renee—is retiring from Catholic Charities’ Northside Child Development Center after caring for the children of North Minneapolis for 45 years.
In the weeks before her last day, coworkers at Northside are busy sifting through albums of old pictures, sharing memories and planning a party for her last day.
“It’s hard to believe she won’t be here anymore,” is a common sentiment.
Parents who bring their children to Northside often comment that it doesn’t feel like dropping off their kids at a daycare—but dropping them off with family. If Northside is a family, Ms. Renee is the smock-wearing matriarch.
She sets her alarm for 4 each morning, allowing a half hour for saying her prayers prior to getting ready and heading to Northside before the babies arrive. As a teacher in the infant room, Ms. Renee and her fellow teachers and volunteers care for about a dozen infants six weeks to 16-months old. They read stories, rock to sleep, feed, soothe and comfort the babies as if they’re their own.
“I just have loved watching them grow,” Ms. Renee said. “I don’t have any favorites, I love them all.”
Kim Osborn is Northside’s program director. She describes Ms. Renee as the “wisdom” of Northside.
“Her kind heart and loving patience has been present here for as long as I have been working at the Center, plus another 20 years,” Osborn said. “NCDC is a staple in North Minneapolis; many people come back to visit and specifically ask to say hi to Miss Renee and their face lights up when I say, ‘yes, she is here.’ Ms. Renee will be truly missed.”
Ms. Renee loves those visits and talks of the lawyers and doctors who she once held in her arms.
“All of those kids that I had, they got kids and they’re bringing them back to me,” she says with a smile.
Miss Renee speaks with pride when she talks about the successes the children she once cared for have achieved.
“I like teaching them so they can grow and make something of themselves,” she said. “That’s why we’re here.”
As Catholic Charities’ Senior Director of Children and Family Services, Keith Kozerski offices out of Northside Child Development Center. There is just no replacing Ms. Renee, it seems.
“Ms. Renee is a true gift to the Northside. She has provided care and guidance to generations of children in North Minneapolis. Her calm voice and loving spirit help to nurture the children she cares for,” he said. “Even this close to retirement Ms. Renee is on the floor playing with children and helping them learn to scoot and walk. Ms. Renee also loves a party. She’s always the first one to volunteer to plan the employee holiday celebration. She will be missed.”
While she says she will be back to visit the Northside children who fill her heart, Ms. Renee said she is looking forward to retirement.
“I’m ready to do something for me. I’m going to relax for awhile,” she said. “I’ll still probably wake up early, but I can lay back down again and then get up and do what I want.”