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  • MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Seventeen years ago, a Minneapolis resident founded a place called Olu’s Home.

    The organization provides housing and in-home care for the elderly and those with developmental disabilities and mental illness. Olu’s Home now has eleven locations throughout the Twin Cities.

    Gloria Freeman was recently named Minnesota Small Business Person of the Year by the U.S Small Business Administration. It’s what she’s doing here and for children in the neighborhood of North Minneapolis that makes her a Minnesotan to Meet.

    The doors opened for “playtime” officially last summer and since then it’s been full speed ahead for Freeman and her team at this intergenerational program.

    “(Olu) means so grateful to God. When I thought of starting my business, working with people that have been dismissed in our society, I felt grateful for everyone,” Freeman said. “It’s exciting. It’s a good feeling. It’s nice to be able to see the laughter and hear the children.”

    The children aren’t just interacting with their peers, but rather getting instruction from retired professionals like former Montessori teacher Callie Riser.

    “The first thing we do is homework. If the school doesn’t send them homework, they get here and they get homework,” Riser said.

    Riser said the multiplication tutoring doesn’t just help the mind of her students, but hers as well.

    “Most people that I know that are retired have all this energy,” Riser said. “It’s nice to be able to come to a place and work with a generation.”

    Her student during WCCO’s spring break visit was fifth grader Darrell McGee, who was certainly demonstrating a competitive spirit with his teacher.

    “When I’m done I will choose (the board game) Connect Four,” McGee said. “I always win. She only beat me twice.”

    The center currently accepts children who qualify for assistance programs through Hennepin County. They are waiting to be approved for “Parent Aware” program this summer. They have to be open a full year before they qualify for federal aid.

    It’s inside the walls of Olu’s Home that Freeman hopes habits start that students like McGee can take home.

    “We believe that some of the issues that we see with our children we can start at the very beginning,” Freeman said. “We are hoping that we’ll be able to give the opportunity to a lot more children than the capacity of this building.”

    For a woman who has devoted nearly two decades of her life to serving others, she says this is just beginning.

    The SBA, along with the SCORE Association and the Small Business Development Center, will honor Freeman and other award winners at the Minnesota Small Business Week Awards program on May 4 at the Doubletree in St. Louis Park. Registration is open for the event until April 29.

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