by Gabby blair
On May 29, the Pennie Z. Davis Child Development Center’s long- term visionary, artistic muse, and Assistant Director, Carole Greenberg, is retiring. As I sat down with Carole to conduct this interview, the love, warmth and soul that she has poured into making the CDC the amazing facility it is today, was tangible. From her interactions with the staff, to the works of art hanging on the wall, Carole’s essence is apparent wherever one looks. As her time at the CDC comes to an end, even the thought of her absence is bringing tears to the eyes of her colleagues, CDC parents and children and alumni, alike.
I should note that I called the CDC at 7:45 a.m. one morning to see about setting up a time later in the week to meet with her and was taken aback that she answered the phone herself. On a moment’s notice, she made time to meet with me just a few hours later. Cheerful and accommodating, she told me her story, with a big smile and a twinkle in her eye; those of you who know her, know she is full of an electric energy.
Tell me how you came to be at the CDC?
“It was November of 1989. At that time, the JCC Preschool was housed where Jewish Family Services, the JCC Community Room, and The Jewish Press is currently located. I walked into the facility, found then director Marlen Frost, and said “Hi! I am Carole Greenberg, and I am the best thing that has ever happened to you!” I was turned down flat and told they were not hiring. In March of 1990, I was called and informed of a small part-time gig being a camp counselor for 4-year-olds. Naturally, I jumped at the chance!” Carole goes on, explaining how she progressed from getting her foot in the door, to becoming a lead preschool teacher, and then assistant director, followed by her efforts to develop the amazing art program the CDC is so well known for. “Along with all of her talents, Carole was the brains behind starting the art program at the CDC. She can account for thousands of canvasses hanging in homes, offices and other places around the city by children who went through her art program,” says Corey Kirshenbaum, former long time CDC Director. Kirshenbaum goes on to say, “Carole was an outstanding person to work with. She always found a way to take children to the next level of development… to take the best of each child and challenge them to their highest potential. Carole was an outstanding role model for with the other teachers and staff and she always had her door open and was willing to help. Carole was the glue that held the CDC together. She was not only my child’s teacher, she was a superb colleague who I was honored to work with for so many years. We often spoke to each other without saying anything. I became an outstanding lip reader thanks to her, and we had many laughs together over the years.”
Can you reflect on three of the best or most memorable experiences you have had at the CDC?
“Wow. That is almost impossible. I have been here just a hair under 25 years, we are talking a little under a month short of 25 years!” she laughs. “I have loved every day of it. This is a place where I have spent the majority of my time. All the people I have worked with, cared for… it is like family. It is a passion.” Greenberg goes on saying, “Former students are now returning with their own children, or coming back as art camp counselors, its really moving.” Of the three most memorable experiences, Greenberg lists her instrumental role in being a part of the design and purchasing of the current building and the continuation of updating and art work; the outpouring of support from parents and co-workers after an auto accident en route to a JCC conference in 1996; and her first CDC graduation. “I made paper hats, paper collars, and the cake. We have come such a long way since then and refer to it as our “Broadway production”!”
Expounding a little on the history of the CDC, Carole detailed the evolution of the facility existing today. “We made the move to the current building in 2000. At that time, Dinah Raful had become the CDC Director. We really outgrew our space, and there were parties interested in helping us expand, so we put together a plan and submitted it… we were told to go back and think BIGGER!” The plans for our current home were then designed, and Pennie Z. Davis personally put up $1 million dollars for its construction. Thanks to this generous gift, and those of so many other amazing community donors, we have this special place today! I was so honored on the day that I gave Pennie the first tour of the building.”
So, what is next for you?
“You know, most people seem to dislike change. I love change. I love exploring and trying new things. It keeps me going. My husband Andy and I have moved from our home in Forest Hills, Queens, New York, to Newbury Park, California, to New Hampshire, and then to Omaha. Our next stop is Lake Worth, Florida,” says Greenberg. After wintering in Florida, visiting family and friends, and helping her sister look for a new home in the area, the Greenbergs began casually looking at properties a local realtor would send them. A special listing, meeting their criteria, prompted the decision to make the move and start the next chapter of their lives. Eventually, Greenberg, who has been to 76 countries, would like to travel more with her husband. She said that once settled, she may look into directing art classes for adults and working with the Girl Scouts. “It is going to be hard to leave this place. Our son and his family are in nearby Kansas City. The CDC has been my home for such a big part of my life, and I am going to really miss the staff camaraderie and the amazing children. We have such wonderful friends here and this is such a a great community.” As excited as Carole Greenberg is about the upcoming move and exploring new things, I can see that she is full of emotion when discussing leaving Omaha, and especially, the CDC. It is a bittersweet ending to our meeting.
Jeanine Huntoon is the seventh director who Carole has worked with. “There is no way we could ever fill Carole’s shoes,” says Huntoon. “The huge impact she has had on so many lives is amazing, and she will be sorely missed!”
Huntoon and the CDC staff are holding a Retirement Open House on May 28, 5:30-7 p.m. in the JCC Auditorium. Huntoon expects a good turnout and goes on to say, “It would be great to have current and former CDC families and friends come celebrate Carole, her dedication to the program and give her the send off she deserves!”