She’s changed well over a million diapers. Line them up and they’d go from West Pittston to New York City.
“If I only had a dollar for every diaper,” she said. “I could have retired a long time ago.”
Carol Crich, a longtime employee of the West Pittston Child Development Center, is calling it a career after 42 years. Her last day is set for May 30.
For Crich, her time at the center was more than just a job.
“I really love kids,” she said. “I wish I could have had more.”
She works in the baby room, taking care of infants from 6 weeks old to 18 months. She can take care of four by herself, but now takes care of six with a helper. The Foster Grandparents of Luzerne/Wyoming Counties help out at the facility, she said.
On a recent afternoon, Kolbi, Sofia, Kenny and Christopher, all newborns, were all napping, while Cole was happily bouncing on Crich’s knee. The place was nearly silent with the majority of the children asleep. In a hour, Crich said, it will be completely different.
“Once everyone wakes up, they’ll have to be fed and changed,” she said. “When one starts crying, it will be like a chain reaction. But we keep them happy.”
Crich said she loves all of the babies and said they really have a good life at such an early age.
“I wish up I could sleep all day, then you get up and have some milk,” she laughed. “The babies have no cares in the world. They’re so innocent.”
Crich’s day traditionally starts when she opens the building at 6:30 a.m. and goes until the last children are picked up, usually between 3 and 4:30 p.m.
“All day it’s all about the babies,” she said. “I feed them, I change them, I put them to bed, I take them for walks in the carriages if it’s nice out.”
When she started in 1972, the facility was located at the Oblates of St. Joseph in Laflin and it was run by Welfare Planning. It moved to the current facility a short time later.
“I’ve taken care of a lot of kids,” she laughed. “And their kids, and their kids’ kids. A lot of generations have come through here.”
She said sometimes a baby will spit up on her, but she’s used to that.
“I only live a few blocks away so I can run home and change if I absolutely have to,” she said. “Otherwise it’s just clean it up and move on.”
Her co-worker, Nadine Eckrote, worked with Crich for 38 years.
“She’s very good at what she does,” Eckrote said. “She’s very motherly. How can you not be after taking care of all those babies. She’s a hard worker, too. And a very nice person, a good person.”
At the non-profit daycare, Crich has taken care of three generations of her own family. Her two children, Al Shields and Bonnie Heckman; her three grandchildren, Nicole Shields, 25; Matthew Shields, 21; Erica Heckman, 15; and her great-grandchild, Baily Murrary, 5.
The West Pittston Child Development Center is a non-profit child care center run by the Child Development Council of Northeast Pennsylvania. There are six other facilities in the region. It is a United Way member agency and has been around since 1972. Assistance with the cost of child care to eligible families is available through United Way funding.
The center currently takes care of 55 infants, toddlers, pre-schoolers and school-aged children after school. Children from six weeks to 12 years old are brought to the center.
Crich isn’t sure what retirement will hold. She and her husband, Charlie, plan to downsize and get a smaller place to live.
“I really have no idea what’s next,” she said. “I’ve been working a long time and I’m tired.”
When asked if the babies will miss Crich, her co-workers responded.
“It won’t only be the babies, it’ll be all of us big babies too,” Eckrote joked, referring to the employees. “We’ll really miss her.”