Vicci Baker did it again and I can’t say I’m surprised.
I spent Friday morning at the Concord Neighborhood Center on Indianapolis’ Southside where Vicci, Cummins’ Director of Global Child Development Centers, has been working with Concord’s leaders on improving their child care operations.
Some background: Concord is Indianapolis’ oldest neighborhood center, serving a lot of low-income families just south of downtown in a variety of ways. Vicci is a force of nature who lets nothing get in her way in pursuit of better outcomes for young children.
Put them together and great things happen.
I toured Concord’s renovated child care center – two buildings Concord bought around 2001 that have been pushed together – with some other Cummins employees including Marya Rose, our Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer, and our retired VP of Corporate Responsibility Jean Blackwell. The buildings on the outside look like those portable classrooms that schools use when they have too many students.
Vicci has worked with Cummins volunteers and others over the past few weeks to paint the ugly old faux-wood paneling inside the buildings a light brown that really goes with the blue in a lot of the furniture.
Most of that furniture is new to the center. About the only stuff left from the old child care area are some tables and chairs. Today there are 10 “interest areas” where students can engage in constructive play designed to spark their imaginations. Teachers will no longer have to instruct as much. Now they can help children develop their own curiosity and learn important lessons about playing together.
Outside the child care center Friday, volunteers from the Engledow Group, Central Indiana’s oldest landscape design and maintenance company, were scurrying around the building donating their time and material to build raised gardens that will cover the crawl space under the classrooms. Planting flowers was also on their agenda.
I don’t think I can do justice to what an improvement the gardens are. Concord previously had been using pieces of dingy white foam around the bottom of the building to keep out the feral cats in the neighborhood.
“You’ve got quite a person in Vicci,” Rick Roberts, Director of Construction Services for the Carmel, Ind. based Engledow, told me. “We just love working with her. She brings so much energy to everything she does.”
Engledow has worked with Vicci before. The Company does the landscaping and maintenance outside Cummins’ buildings in Columbus including the Cummins Child Development Center that Vicci basically designed from the ground up. Roberts said the company jumped at the chance to help at Concord when Vicci asked.
Inside the building, Vicci created those interest areas using furniture she acquired when the Cummins Child Development Center flooded in 2008 and she had to create a temporary center in a school that was empty in Columbus. In just a few weeks the school went from empty and institutional to homey and inviting. In many ways, Vicci did the same thing at Concord.
“Vicci has truly made a silk purse out of a sow’s ear,” said Nikki Girls, Concord’s Executive Director. “We are so grateful for her help.”
The building is only part of the story and probably not the most important. Vicci has been working with staff at the child care center to help them gain their state certificates. This will enable the center to stay open and give staff members an important certification if they want to pursue child care as a career.
Frequent visitors to The Block may recall that Vicci was recently named a Sagamore of the Wabash by Gov. Mike Pence, the highest honor an Indiana governor can bestow on a civilian. In addition to the Cummins Child Development Center in Columbus, Ind., Vicci has been part of child development projects from Minnesota to India and China, too.
I’m proud to say I had something to do with getting Vicci together with Concord. Vicci and I used to work on Cummins’ diversity staff and I had seen first-hand the incredible things she had done during the flood. After I toured Concord about a year ago as the leader of Cummins’ Indianapolis Community Involvement Team, I immediately thought about Vicci, although I never imagined she’d have such a transformative effect on Concord.
But here’s all you need to know about Vicci. After all of the work she’s done at Concord including at least one all-nighter at the center that I know about – there could be more; after the time away from her family (Vicci lives about 50 minutes away); after the time painting and doing paperwork, Vicci came up to me and she thanked me for getting her involved.
“I have loved this project,” she said.
Makes me proud to work for Cummins.
I’m more proud of Vicci than anyone. I know first hand the kind of person she is. She’s very driven by her passion for children, and making the world a better place for them. A place where they can learn, grow and thrive!I have the wonderful opportunity to work with Vicci and I love her dearly… she’s not only a true friend but my baby sister……so proud of you!
I’m proud of Cummins as well! Go to go Vicci….It doesn’t surprise me…
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