OKEECHOBEE — Madlin Alice Kane has been in Okeechobee since her father retired from the military in 1962, and he was hired at the Florida School for Boys as the assistant food director in 1963. It was a huge culture shock for the family, she said, because when you are an Army brat, you swim every day, go to the movies every day, and play tennis every day. Then they came here, and saw real life Indians and cowboys! They were raised with good manners though, she said. They were taught not to stare, but “My goodness! We weren’t at the movies, and we were seeing real life Indians and cowboys. You can bet our mouths dropped. It was a culture shock, but now it is home.”
When Ms. Kane opened her first daycare in 1972, she did it for her parents, Bill and Maggie Long. She opened the daycare for them, and then later on, they made her a partner, she explained. Maggie Long was born in Bethlehem on Christmas day. She was raised in Manila on the Philippine Islands. “She was a special woman,” said Ms. Kane, “beautiful inside and out.” Bill Long was a WWII and Korean Conflict veteran and a proud man, she said. “They were two of the best parents God could have given any children,” she said.
They worked there together, building one of the most highly respected daycares in Okeechobee. “We prided ourselves in never having a raw baby, unless they came to us that way,” she said, “and even then we cleared them right up. Even the health inspectors brought their children to our daycare.” When our kids went to kindergarten, teachers would say, “Well, we know where you went to preschool, Winnie the Pooh or Winnie the Pooh II,” she said. At one point, they went by Kids R Us because someone complained about them using the name Winnie the Pooh. She was told she did not have to change the name, but she did it anyway. In 1980, her parents retired and Ms. Kane stayed with it for almost 22 years. She would have stayed longer she said because she loved it, but she had so much trouble with her back that she ended up getting disability.
So many of the children who went to the daycare have grown up and have children and grandchildren of their own now, she said. Some of the children grew up and married other children from the daycare. She loves running into them on the street or in a store and getting a hug from them. Every one of them is like family, she said. They were all special in their own way.
After her father passed away, she said she began to pray and ask God to give her a mission. She began going to the hospital, and she had to build up her immune system, and her sister ended up in the nursing home. When she went in there, a woman asked her for prayer, and she had never prayed out loud in her life, but she got down on her knees and prayed for the woman. When she got home, she got down on her knees and said, “Jesus, I think this is what you want for me. This is the mission you want me to have, to sing and pray for the sick and the elderly and the poor.” She has always enjoyed giving. It has been important to her since she was a young child, she said.
She and her mother volunteered at Hospice for ten years together before her mother passed away, and now Ms. Kane said she is pushing 16 years with Hospice. She goes to the Hospice House to sing and pray any time there is someone there, she said. Often when people are unsure of their salvation, she will talk to them and pray with them at the nursing home or at Hospice. She visits the nursing home every single day, but she can only go to the hospital if she knows the name of a patient she is visiting. She can’t just go there and visit without a specific destination. She goes to the hospital every chance she gets though. “I love those people there, and they love me,” she said. She prays every day that the Lord will allow her to serve in this capacity every day until he takes her home.
Ms. Kane has two pastors, Joe Bishop of the Hunger and Thirst Church and Mike Brown from The Gathering. Brother Joe Bishop goes to the nursing home twice a week to preach, and she said she loves to hear him preach.
She has a son, Bryan Cotton, and two nephews she adopted as boys — Mike and James and two grandsons James and Scotty.
“I owe everything to my Lord,” she said. “He has guided me all my life.”