By Robert Lucke
Most folks labor for money. In Mary Dubays case the money is optional. She labors for love.
Dubay has been the director of the Childrens Center at MSU-Northern for the last seven years. It was her first job out of school and it is a job that was just tailored to her specifications.
I had never been in Havre all my life until I came for an interview for this job, Dubay said. I was born in Hamilton but my dad was in the Air Force so we traveled all over.
Dubay was doing her practice teaching at Paris Gibson school in Great Falls when a friend read her the job description for a child care director at Northern. She knew it was for her.
The Child Care center on campus had started in 1989 in the family housing area and has been expanding ever since she came to Havre.
We have an infant center for children eight weeks to three years old, said Dubay. In fact I guess I should call it what it really is, the infant and toddler center.
That part of MSU-Northern child care is housed in the family housing area. The Childrens Center, which runs from preschool through the fourth grade, is housed in one of the honors houses behind Morgan Hall.
At the Childrens Center we are licensed for 42 and we are full. We have 51 spots right now, but some are part-time, Dubay said. And at the infant and toddler center there are 24 with 16 at any one given time. We are full.
Eighty-five percent of children attending the Child Center are from students going to MSU-Northern. The other 15 percent are staff children or alumni from Northern.
So there is always a waiting list for the center which opens at 6:45 a.m. and closes at 6 p.m. each day, and serves breakfast, lunch and a snack along with quality time for the children.
In the summer we run a recreation program and always we keep them busy, Dubay said. We are real proud that we do not have TV at either center. That is for home. They can keep busy here doing other things.
There is plenty of staff at the center, but most is part-time education students learning about kids and homework.
Generally we have from 22 to 25 staff between the two centers. There are two full-time at the infant center and I am the only full-time staff member here, Dubay said. We do have a lot of part-time and they are mainly college students, mainly in education. We do preschool here and activities all day long so it is nice for students. They can supervise homework and learn a little about what happens after school.
And if all those activities are not enough, the center runs busses during the day taking school-age children and picking them up from Devlin, Highland Park and Sunnyside.
As cook Della Konefes prepared baked ham, mashed potatoes, bread butter and pineapple for lunch, Dubay confided that she does have a wish list for the center.
I would like a great big beautiful center where we can all be together. We all miss being together, said Dubay, wistfully. Parents would like it, too. But we are so grateful for just being able to open the infant and toddler center.
That center got good news lately in the form of a grant from the Department of Education.
It is enough money to pay for a staff member at the infant and toddler center. That will free some money up to do a better job in education. We will be able to help some students pay their day care fees, Dubay said.
Daily, Dubay keeps on laboring out of love.
They designed this job just for me, said Dubay with a smile. I guess I was lucky to get it.