Betty Barnes: Children are the future

By Staff
PROFESSIONAL WOMAN Thousands of children have passed through the doors of Betty Barnes Pre-School Center during the last 38 years. Barnes says she can't image not having children in her life. Photo by Paula Merritt / The Meridian Star
By Penny Randall / staff writer
March 24, 2002
Ask Betty Barnes how many children she has and the answer will vary from year to year. Right now, she has 128, give or take. Her own three children are adults the other 125 are students at Betty Barnes Pre-School Center.
For almost 40 years, Barnes has spent her work days at the same place, but it was much smaller when she went to work for Jean Love in 1964.
In 1968, Barnes bought the daycare from Love. Since then, she has expanded twice, buying the house next door and another down the street.
The important things
After decades educating thousands of children, Barnes stresses respect as one of the most needed values.
Barnes credits her 12 employees with supplying much needed assistance and over the years has developed sort of a philosophy.
Employee Tanya Davidson has worked there six years and says Barnes treats every child just like they were her own.
Lindsey Griffin, who works with 4- and 5-year-olds, agrees.
Family first
Barnes calls her husband "Big Mac." They have been married 51 years.
They have three children Mac Barnes, a high school and middle school principal and football coach at Lamar; Clay Barnes, a musician who lives in Meridian; and Beth Waite of Hattiesburg, who operates Barnes' other daycare, "Little Ones."
She says that's the secret to a long marriage.
Barnes looks forward to cooking for her family, which also includes five grandchildren, on Sunday nights.
Like mother, like daughter
Barnes is proud of her business. At 38 years and counting, she has taken care of two generations in some families. Four-year-old Avery Harwell's mother, Stacey, was a student at the daycare 32 years ago.
When Avery leaves the daycare next year, Barnes feels the kindergartner will be ready to face whatever she needs to both emotionally and mentally.
Who's retiring?
You might think Barnes is looking forward to retirement. Not true, she said, she still enjoys the 10-hour days and so does her husband. Mac Barnes Sr. retired from the
Mississippi Air National Guard when he was 55 and has been working with his wife ever since.
Barnes is also an active member of Central United Methodist Church and serves on the Planning Commission for the city of Meridian.
Her close friends Nell Grissom, executive director of Wesley House, and Barbara Henson, owner of Barbara Henson's Nursery School, say she is a wonderful person.
Henson laughed as she remembered a conversation with Barnes last summer.
Age is relative, and Barnes is young at heart.

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