Clayton woman built ‘the place every child wanted to go’

ndunn@newsobserver.comApril 25, 2014 

Joyce Lipscomb Canady founded Lipscomb’s Learning Center in 1963.

NASH DUNN — ndunn@newsobserver.com

While growing up, Clayton Mayor Jody McLeod coveted one place in town.

It was down the street – the home of Joyce Lipscomb Canady.

“She had the most toys,” not to mention jungle gyms and swing sets, McLeod said. “That was the place every child wanted to go.”

It would be hard to count how many faces Lipscomb Canady has seen come through the doors of her daycare, which she opened in 1963. The Clayton native can still remember most of them though; they are often the grown-up business owners, teachers and doctors she bumps into around town.

Lipscomb’s Learning Center, housed in a former plumbing store on Second Street, began as an annex to her home. The Meredith College graduate launched a program for kindergarten-age children shortly after resigning her job as a middle school teacher.

“There was a need for it here,” Lipscomb Canady said. “A long time ago, people would get someone to come to their house and keep their children. There were not any daycares.”

When the public schools added kindergarten, Lipscomb Canady adapted quickly, creating a program for preschoolers. The center attracted more families and added after-school programs and now serves about 70 children.

The philosophy at Lipscomb’s is simple: family-based learning. It’s not just a catch-phrase either, as her six children and 14 grandchildren all graduated from the center. Lipscomb Canady’s seven great-grandchildren are making their way through the daycare now.

“We try to take each child as they come to us, build on their strengths and go from there,” Lipscomb Canady said. “If they get the foundation, they will go on from there (and be successful). It is very important.”

Naomi Johnson, Lipscomb Canady’s daughter, is director of Lipscomb’s Learning Center. She said despite the daycare industry’s ups and downs, her mother has remained focused on the task at hand.

“To have survived through all of this, and to start with no competition and have what you have now, it’s amazing,” Johnson said.

Lipscomb Canady’s reach has extended past the doors of her daycare. McLeod said she was promoting Clayton’s assets before the town realized it was a “premiere community.”

“She’s like a cornerstone to Clayton,” McLeod said. “She’s been an ambassador, and she’s not even trying to be.”

The Clayton Chamber of Commerce recognized Lipscomb Canady as its 2013 Outstanding Citizen, an honor she said was humbling. Clayton Animal Hospital, owned by one of her former students, Dr. Mike Bagley, was named business of the year.

“I couldn’t help but cry because it was so touching,” Lipscomb Canady said.

Today, she is active in the Woman’s Club of Clayton and in a ministry at the women’s prison in Raleigh. And while she has reduced her time at the daycare, she still drops in to read a story or go on field trips with the children.

“We are not like an institution,” she said. “We are like one big family.”

Dunn: 919-553-7234, Ext. 104

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