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Banner year for North Chicago’s woman of distinction

 Dr. Daisy Brooks talks with well wishers before celebratiGreenbelt Cultural Center.

Dr. Daisy Brooks talks with well wishers before celebration at the Greenbelt Cultural Center.

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Updated: April 2, 2011 5:31PM

Daisy Brooks, founder of Daisy’s Resource Center in North Chicago and recipient of the 2010 Presidential Citizen’s Medal, was honored on her retirement and 73rd birthday at a gala reception.

“I’m deeply honored to have received the medal. There were 6,000 nominees across the country, and only 13 were selected for the honor,” she said Sunday at the party at Greenbelt Cultural Center, where music flowed and good wishes were extended to her by more than 300 guests.

Brooks said that when she met President Obama at the White House, he asked her, “How do you do all these things?”

“I told him, ‘Me and God,’” she said.

Brooks, a native of Natchez, Miss., founded the Tots and Toddlers Day Care Center in 1973 after she, a working mother, couldn’t find a reliable child-care center for her three young children.

“I decided to build my own,” said Brooks, a licensed practical nurse — and a licensed contractor — who then was working as a lab technician — first at Northeastern University and later at the University of Chicago, Physicians & Surgeons Laboratory and Victory Memorial Hospital.

Brooks designed and acted as general contractor for the 10,500-square-foot building on Sherman Avenue, which was renamed Dr. Daisy Brooks Drive in her honor. A wing was added in 1975 to accommodate 150 pre-schoolers.

“My father was a contractor. As a child, I used to follow him around, learning the trades in the process,” said Brooks, who went on to receive a bachelor’s degree in human resource development and a master’s in community service, both from Pacific Western University in Los Angeles.

She later received four doctorates — in education, laws, literature and human letters — from Faith Grant College in Birmingham, Ala. But she never rested on her laurels.

Recognizing the growing need to care for pregnant and parenting adolescent girls, in 1989 she founded Daisy’s Resource and Development Center, for which she also served as designer and general contractor. That center, funded mostly by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, offers residency as well as vocational training. Concentrating on that project, she closed the child-care center.

The training provided at Daisy’s Resource and Development Center includes programs for a general education degree, nursing assistant certification, English as a second language, and child development, which enables an enrollee to become a licensed day-care teacher.

More programs, such as counseling, job searches and independent living skills were added recently.

Brooks said that when she received a phone call last summer about being nominated for the Presidential Citizen’s Medal, she thought someone was trying to play a game on her.

Later, when the While House called, “I nearly fell off my seat,” she said.

She and husband Wadell Brooks Sr., a retired equal opportunity officer who served at Naval Station Great Lakes, went to the White House on Aug. 4 to receive the medal.

At Saturday’s party there were two birthday cakes. One was decorated with a picture of her with the president and inscribed with the words “A virtuous woman.” The other cake bore the words: “May God continue to bless and use you.”

Brooks promised to continue to work for the girls at the center as a consultant.

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