By Patrick Yost
After nearly 30 years of serving thousands of Morgan County children and families, Marie Singleton, the owner of Kiddy Land Early Learning Center announced Monday that she had sold the business.
Singleton said she has sold the Morgan County mainstay to Paul and Nina Lemon. The Lemons, she said, will continue to operate the center with its current employees. Shasta Singleton, Marie’s daughter, will remain as director.
The name, however, will change to Lemontree Academy.
In a letter to friends and customers, Singleton said she conceived of the idea of opening a childcare center with her friend Kathy Bleau while both were waitresses at the Western Sizzlin restaurant. “One night… rolling silverware we decided that there had to be more we were capable of and could contribute to this life than washing dishes, doing laundry and juggling children here and there…”
“The only thing we were good at was ‘kids’ so we decided to open a daycare.”
Kiddy Land initially opened on March 1, 1991 on a site on U.S. 441 north where Mabel Campbell had previously owned a child care center. Singleton said Campbell helped operate Kiddy Land as she and Bleau swapped waitress shifts to man the center. The center started with nine children.
On Nov. 1, 1992 the center opened at its current site on Fairground Road. Since its beginning, Singleton wrote, the center has employed more than 300 people and has served more than 3,000 families.
Kiddy Land Early Learning Center has also received three stars (the highest rating) for the Quality Rated Georgia Accreditation System.
The rating is given to centers that meet or exceed state requirements.
Singleton said the center also provided valuable work-based learning for students. “I was able to give the opportunity to high school students to be mentored, to have on the job training and learn life skills that would benefit them as parents in their future by teaching them developmentally appropriate practices for young children.”
She also gave broad thanks to her family. “Kiddy Land is a huge part of my family. My children know it as a second home. All have worked there at one time or another.”
She also gave thanks to her husband Tracy. “He supported me when I had no idea how to open or operate a day care center. He watched four small children while cutting and baling hay, he did all repairs and upkeep on the center and the playgrounds…” she writes.
“I have been blessed.”