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Perham couple retires after providing 30 years of child care

After 30 years of providing childcare to the Perham community, the Kalinas are retiring On Aug. 31 of this year. Sharon and Mark, who have been married for 34 years, chose to retire to become fulltime grandparents.

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Mark and Sharon Kalina stand outside their daycare facility before their Aug. 31 retirement. (Elizabeth Vierkant/Focus)

After 30 years of providing child care to the Perham community, one couple is retiring On Aug. 31, Sharon and Mark Kalina, who have been married for 34 years, chose to retire to become fulltime grandparents. This was a hard decision, but family is important to the two of them.

"It is hard to comprehend that I have spent half of my life as a childcare provider, but I feel lucky that this path was chosen for me," Sharon said.

Coincidentally, while family is the reason for their retirement, family is also the reason the Kalinas became child care providers in the first place.

When their son, Adam, was 15 months old, he started having seizures. He had a brain tumor removed when he was seven but suffered a stroke during surgery. Due to this, the Kalinas struggled finding childcare for him, so Sharon became a licensed childcare provider and started her own daycare out of their home in 1991.

After nine years of running day care from there, Sharon in 2001 acquired the child care duplex at 773 and 777 Fifth St. NE, which has heated floors, a play yard and is only a quick walk away from a park. The duplex is split into two different sections.

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Originally, Torey Neisen provided care in the other half of the duplex, but she eventually changed career paths to become a registered nurse at Sanford Health. Because of this, Mark jumped on the opportunity to become a licensed care provider himself in 2007 himself, and he began to run the other half of the duplex. Sharon said Mark likes to tell people that working with his wife at the childcare duplex is the best job he has ever had.

"We have been blessed with wonderful families over these many years and created great friendships," Sharon said. "(These friendships have) not only been with the families in our care but with fellow providers."

Sharon has found it amazing to watch the children she cared for grow and thrive in the Perham community throughout the past three decades. Her first daycare child is now even a mother with a child of her own.

The Kalinas are still in contact with many of the Perham families for whom they provided care. "They're like family too," Sharon said. "The kids have just been so amazing."

There are currently 22 children receiving care at the Kalinas' duplex. Because a Perham survey from a few years ago found that parents were struggling to find daycare, the city plans to purchase the facility and rent it out to a day care provider. That way, parents hopefully won't lose available childcare in the Perham area.

"Thank you for everything for the last thirty years," Mark said, addressing the Perham community. "Our neighbors, our customers, our parents, our city workers…"

"Perham has been very supportive," Sharon continued off of him. "It's been a good community to do childcare and business in… We do have to put out a big 'thank you' to Perham. It's been really good."

When Mark and Sharon announced their retirement to their day care parents in mid-July, they offered them this quote from Winnie the Pooh: "How lucky we are to have something that makes goodbye so hard."

Elizabeth (she/her), 23, graduated with a degree in Journalism and Communications from the University of Wisconsin–Stout in 2020. Elizabeth has always had a passion for telling stories about people and specializes in community features, which she uses for her Perham-centered content.
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