Annetta Rutland is 4C for Children’s walking historian. Not because she is an avid reader of history but because she has lived and contributed to that history over the past 40 years as an employee—a rare accomplishment in today’s world where the average employee changes jobs every five years.
“When I started at 4C in 1979, we had a staff of less than 10 people and our offices were in the United Way building downtown,” Annetta remembers. “Since then our offices have moved three times and we have grown to a staff of more than 100 people serving three regions in two states!”
She started her career at 4C “doing whatever needed to be done in the office.” But that was just the beginning. She was soon trained to begin implementing the child care component of the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) in the region as well as recruit southwest Ohio in-home child care providers to take part in the program.
CACFP is a federal program that provides nutritious meals to vulnerable children as a regular part of their child care. The program also reimburses child care providers for the food served. Last year, CNP supported more than 400 child care programs that served more than 2 million meals to children in need in Southwest Ohio and the Miami Valley.
“The Child Nutrition Program has evolved and grown just as the agency has evolved and grown to meet the needs of children and families in our community,” she says. “I feel so fortunate to be part of this wonderful program and this great agency. I love what 4C stands for, the people I work with and believe so deeply in what we do.”
Today, after holding five positions over four decades, Annetta serves as the strategic director of program operations and still has a hand in the CNP. “Every day offers an opportunity to learn something new and that’s what excites me. No two days of my job look that same, which had made the years at 4C so enjoyable.” But, she says, it’s ultimately the child care providers and children served that has kept her coming back day after day.
When Vanessa Freytag was named 4C’s president and CEO in 2015, Annetta was among the first to welcome her to the agency “and she’s been a valuable resource and friend to me since that first meeting,” Freytag says. “There is no way to articulate or illustrate the tremendous impact Annetta’s work has made to this agency and most especially to the children of our community through CACFP. We—and our community—are so fortunate that she walked into that 4C office 40 years ago!”
When asked what she’s been most proud of over her 40-year career, Annetta doesn’t hesitate. “How I have represented 4C both locally and nationally, as well as the staff who have worked with me over the years. We have been getting the job done and my staff give 100 percent every day as they put providers first and I’m so proud of what we’ve accomplished—and what we will accomplish in the future!”
Her impact isn’t just felt locally. She is completing her second term on the National Association of CACFP Sponsors Board and plans to run for a third term.
What comes next for Annetta? One thing is for sure, it’s not retirement!
“My heart is still so committed to 4C and the work we are doing to think about retirement,” she says. “I’m still excited every morning when I go to work to see how I and 4C can make a difference and the new ideas that we can move forward. My heart is still so very committed the wellbeing of our community’s children and providing support to our community’s child care providers who are so essential to working families.”