Long recognized for her dedication to children, Laneta “Lennie” Mueller helped found one of Oregon’s largest childcare organizations based in Parkdale — the Oregon Child Development Coalition.
Honoring the memory of Mueller’s lifelong work, OCDC held an appreciation dinner March 20 and announced the creation of a new scholarship named after Mueller, who passed away Feb. 6.
The scholarship fund was established through Columbia Gorge Community College. Starting this fall, the college will be awarding the scholarship to a deserving student pursing a degree in early childhood education.
In 1966 Mueller was concerned about young children being in the fields as their parents worked and was moved by the death of a migrant child while in the field.
According to Donalda Dodson, executive director of OCDC, Mueller realized “someone should do something about this” and with the help of her friends, she founded the center.
Mueller helped establish the precursor to OCDC as a volunteer child care center at Parkdale Primary School. She worked as a teacher in the program. Over the next decade and beyond she held various positions acting as director of the earlier named Upper Valley Development Center.
Mueller developed the services to meet the multiple needs of migrant and seasonal farm worker children and grew the program into a comprehensive Head Start service.
“The seed Lennie planted in Parkdale in 1966 has grown into Oregon Child Development Coalition, one of the largest early childhood care and education nonprofit organizations in Oregon,” said Dodson. “Lennie’s service to her faith, family, and community took a new beginning with her passing on Feb. 6, 2013.”
Noted for her warmth, Mueller’s care touched the lives of many. She went on to receive the Jim Klahre Award for Distinguished Service to Children and the Soroptimist International Women of Distinction award.
The new Lennie Mueller Early Childhood Care and Education Scholarship has been established to encourage others to follow in her footsteps.
At the recent appreciation dinner, Mueller’s contributions were noted and the scholarship in her honor was announced. In addition, her husband, Richard, son Jeff and daughter Ann received an inscribed plaque in her honor.
“Lennie planted a childcare and education seed that sprouted and grew,” said Dodson. “OCDC acknowledges Lennie’s founding leadership and tireless commitment. Her legacy will live on through the children and families of OCDC.”