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Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Cook’s Little Beginnings closes after 34 years

David Colburn
Posted 5/30/24

COOK- When the last parent picked up the last child at Little Beginnings Preschool in Cook on Friday, it was the last time Nancy Reing would say goodbye as a caregiver and educator of other …

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Cook’s Little Beginnings closes after 34 years


COOK- When the last parent picked up the last child at Little Beginnings Preschool in Cook on Friday, it was the last time Nancy Reing would say goodbye as a caregiver and educator of other people’s children. For Friday was the day the well-loved early childhood program closed its doors for good.
“It’s been wonderful,” Reing said Friday morning. “It’s been quite a ride – amazing. It’s bittersweet.”
Reing can’t even begin to count the many hours she’s put in since opening Little Beginnings in 1990, nor can she count the hundreds of children who generations of parents entrusted to her care. Yet she remembers them all, and she’s proud of who each and every one has become.
“We’ve got dentists and doctors – it’s crazy,” she said. “And as far as I’m concerned, they’ve all been successful. Everyone that’s come through these doors has touched us in way that you can’t buy.”
And if you happened to miss it, note the “us” in that statement. That word is essential to understanding the positive impact Little Beginnings has had over the decades.
“Little Beginnings is not just me,” Reing said. “It’s so many helpers, so many teachers, so many aides, so many people have passed through these walls that have helped me, the special ed teachers, the occupational therapists, speech pathologists, all those helped make this what it is.”
As Reing spoke, she stood in a hallway with walls covered in pictures of former students from floor to ceiling. She pointed out one in particular, a picture of a boy and a girl pretending to get married, with another girl at their side as a bridesmaid. Recently, that young couple, now grown, made it official, getting married with the same girl as a bridesmaid. Reing said she sent them a copy of the picture. She scanned the wall reflectively.
“Most of the kids I have now are kids of kids who came here,” she said. “Some of the kids on these walls have already passed, and we’re glad we got to have them for as short a time as we did. It’s a legacy I can’t even thank God for enough for all the joy it has given. It’s been amazing.”
Unlike the many providers who’ve left the field because of its long hours and minimal income, Reing isn’t walking away from New Beginnings so much as she’s walking toward an equally important task.
“You don’t go into early childhood child care centers to make a fortune, you go in because you love the children and you have a heart for it,” she said. “Your reward is the kids coming back or their successes or them saying thank you, that’s your pay, that’s what you get. There’s nothing better.”
Reing’s new adventure might not be better, but it’s different and at least equally as good.
“My daughter, who was not supposed to be able to have children, is now pregnant with twins,” Reing said smiling broadly. “In March she said they were looking into child care and it was over $4,000 a month, plus a nanny, and I said no, that’s my job. I told Dan, my husband, we’re done. I’m giving the parents three months notice, and he couldn’t believe it because we had planned to be here till I was 70.”
The Reings will still be here in Cook, and when the twins are born in July, Reing will commute to her daughter Mackenzie’s house in the Twin Cities to be the caregiving grandma.
“She’s a PA at Methodist Hospital, so her hours are kind of busy kooky, so we’ll just go back and forth as needed. And then we’re going to homeschool my granddaughter who’s ten next year, and I have my other grandson and we’re going to keep him up with preschool and homeschool him.”
And Little Beginnings will still physically be there for former kids to pass by and reminisce about good times.
“My son and daughter-in-law are going to move in and turn it back into a home,” Reing said. “This home was built by my husband’s grandfather.”
But with all that activity, Reing said she’ll be making time for one other favorite pastime.
“I’m excited to fish,” she said. “That’s one of my big things. I can’t wait to get in the boat and go out on the lake with the kids and just have that free time, because it’s been 10 hours a day for 34 years.”