Niles’ Tender Hearts Day Care closes after 31 years
It’s been said that Joni Flynn has helped raise half the city of Niles.
The owner of Tender Hearts Day Care said she can’t go anywhere without running into one of the children she’s cared for, or their families.
“I see people everywhere and they are like ‘oh there’s Joni,’” said Flynn, who on Friday closed the Niles day care after 31 years in business. “I like it though. I enjoy catching up with everybody. Most families make us feel like we are part of their family.”
Former and current day care customers and their families were invited to a going away party Friday at Flynn’s home. People streamed in and out of the backyard on Sioux Trail all morning and afternoon, giving out hugs and sharing memories.
“It’s a bittersweet day,” Flynn said, “I feel like I’m on an emotional rollercoaster. Seeing kids come in to say ‘hi’ that I’ve watched — it’s been crazy.
“Some of the moms and dads saying how much of a difference I made in their lives… for awhile I thought I was just babysitting. I didn’t realize the impact I had on some of the families.”
Emily Wyant, now a grown woman, recalled when Flynn watched her and her brother. She said she was around 4 at the time.
“She was always very loving, very caring — it was always fun to go to Miss Joni’s,” she said. “Always lots of toys, lots of kids.”
Flynn opened the Niles day care in May 1982 when her 2-year-old son (now 32) was going to day care.
“I hated dropping him off… I would cry everyday, so I decided I’d watch kids as a stop gap until he went to kindergarten,” Flynn said. “I didn’t think I’d be doing it this long.”
Flynn’s motto for Tender Hearts was “it’s your child’s home when you can’t be there.”
“I treated the kids like they were at home, like I would treat my kids,” Flynn said.
Twelve-year-old Hannah Holmes, who has been attending Tender Hearts since she was four months old, said she would miss her time with Flynn.
“I was sad because I like her — she’s so nice,” Holmes said. “It was fun to come here and play with my friends.”
Flynn said she closed Tender Hearts due to health issues and having the feeling that it’s time.
“I’m going to miss it,” Flynn said. “I’m thankful that all these families trusted me with their most priceless possession.”