'Miss Nina' takes a time-out from Gardnerville day care

After 26 years of working at least 12 hours a day and sometimes seven days a week running a childcare center, a doctor told "Miss Nina" that for the sake of her health she needs to take a time-out from Sunshine and Rainbows.

Nina Grobben and her husband, Art, are selling their house and businesses and heading off to Northport, Wash., in July.

"Working with children filled my cup all these years," said Grobben, 51. "Although there are some days you wonder why you keep trying, there are a lot of good things Sunshine has brought me personally.

"I'm going to get back to the earth. I love working with kids and seniors. This ride has taken its toll on me and now I've got to get healthy," she said.

The Grobbens bought an older log home on the Columbia River, remodeled it and made additions. Although they'll still have ties in Gardnerville, they plan to build more cottages at the 4,500 square foot retreat that can accommodate 15-17 guests. Their inspiration for the guest cabins is Sorensen's Resort in Hope Valley.

"We built it for family and friends and any retired Sunshine teachers who need havens," said Grobben.

Sunshine and Rainbows opened in 1980 after Grobben and Linda Naucke talked about opening a business that would allow them to be with their own children.

"There was only one other facility in Gardnerville at that time," said Grobben. "I got to talking to parents at the library or pool and that was the birth of Sunshine and Rainbows."

Grobben bought a house previously owned by a justice of the peace at the corner of Dresslerville and Tillman roads in the Gardnerville Ranchos.

The childcare center was originally licensed for 36 children and the staff was Grobben, her mother, Naucke and two other women.

The center attracted casino workers who appreciated a day care center that was open from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. on holidays and weekends. Enrollment grew over the years to the present 350-400 children.

"It is a strong faith in God and a great sense of humor that seems to be at the core of Nina's commitment to open her doors and her heart to families and children," said Naucke.

"She shared with me that this was her last year doing this good and important work and I'm happy to celebrate that work and offer her recognition for it. I'm glad to live in a community whose children have reaped the benefit of Sunshine and Rainbows," she said.

Grobben's day starts early.

"The first child in at our house at 5:45 a.m. and I'm at work at 6:15 and get home at 6 or 7 each night," she said.

"Sunshine and Rainbows sometimes is the most stable place for kids," said Art Grobben. "Nina is very gifted when it comes to kids. She gives them a jump-start in reading, the alphabet and math. The school district knows where the kids come from. And the kids can tell who's just doing a job and who loves them."

There was always a lot of free care at Sunshine and Rainbows. At any one time seven out of 20 families might be non-paying. Nina Grobben said it allowed families to survive.

"There were some skinny times and Nina was paying the help," said Art Grobben. "Through it all she always said, 'God is good.'"

"Financial stress is one of the of the biggest problems in marriage and I'll be danged if I'd contribute to that," said Nina Grobben.

Art Grobben said a mother of two daughters moved away without paying an accumulated childcare bill. The woman came back after several years to pay what was owed.

"She came to our house and knocked at the door and paid $2,100 in cash," said Nina Grobben. "It renews your faith in people.

"Most childcare facilities are run by corporations - not a mom and pop operation and certainly not by just a mom. For 26 years, I've been the bottom line. It takes a toll.

"If I stayed here, I'd still be a part of Sunshine. When I retire, I want to relish gardening and art. I want to get to know my husband again," she said.

"We have 30-40 kids whose parents came to Sunshine as children. I thought I'd better pull out before we got to the next generation. We're looking at the second generation - that speaks volumes."

All past and present Sunshine and Rainbows children, parents and friends are invited to a farewell party for the Grobbens in Minden Park starting at 11 a.m. on June 24. Music, soft drinks and the barbecues are provided. People can bring their own meat to cook and potluck dishes to share. Call Art Grobben at 265-2066 to RSVP so he'll know how many barbecues to furnish.

What: Party for Nina and Art

When: 11 a.m. June 24

Where: Minden Park

Info: RSVP 265-2066


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