By Tony Khing
SAN FRANCISCO — It happened 25 years ago. That’s when PG&E became the first company in San Francisco’s Financial District with an in-house children day care center.
However, the children’s center at PG&E’s 77 Beale St. headquarters almost didn’t become a reality.
“There was so much debate about whether or not we should have children at our corporate headquarters,” said Susan Randall-Nelson, a 30-plus year PG&E employee who supported communications for the center’s launch. “We weren’t in the business of providing child care.”
But the daughter of then-CEO Richard Clark had just become a mother and she also had her father’s ear. As a result, the second floor of the high rise building—which had been a storage area — was converted to serve the children of PG&E employees working at the company’s headquarters.
“They had lots of conversations and she convinced him this was a tremendous benefit for working parents,” said Randall-Nelson, whose daughter was one of the center’s first attendees. “He thought PG&E should be forward-looking and an on-site center would really be good for our company.”
A quarter-century later, the center is still greatly appreciated by PG&E families.
“The center makes it easy to be a professional and a parent at the same time,” said PG&E’s David Thomason, vice president and controller. He and his wife, Kat, have a 2-year-old daughter attending the facility.
“All of us are in the same building during the day. It’s very convenient for us to drop her off in the morning and to pick her up in the evening. We can also drop in during the day to see how she’s doing.
“It’s great to be working for a company that supports working families,” he added.
“It just does so much for the working parent, especially the moms,” said Sonia Michelini, the lead teacher for infants who’s been at the center since it opened. “The parents can come down, get their minds off work for a few minutes, forget about the workday and be themselves with their kids. It’s a wonderful thing.”
The ability to be close to the children isn’t lost on Christina Cassettari, who was part of the center’s first graduating class and returned to be the lead teacher for young preschoolers.
“My dad (Mario) was in the building and my mother worked nearby at the Transamerica Building. We commuted together from Marin County. If something happened to me, they were right there. We were all here together,” she said.
Cassettari recalled a few other things too.
“I remember wearing a cap and gown to graduation and there was a slide show,” she said. “I also had a fake wedding at some point with some boy I wanted to marry.”
Katie Funseth, who works in PG&E’s Gas Operations organization, attended the center as a 2-year-old. She recalled being carted in a five-seat stroller and taken on field trips around the block surrounding the company headquarters: “I used to wave at mommy’s window,” she said.
Having an on-site children’s center is also advantageous for PG&E.
“Bringing your whole self to work is part of what we want from our employees,” said PG&E’s John Lowe, senior director of Total Rewards. “We want our employees to be able to think about their work when they’re at work. We want them to be safe on the job.”
“It makes me feel real good that the company still sees the value in having this on-site children’s center,” said Randall-Nelson.
PG&E’s children’s center is managed by Bright Horizons, a national leader in employer-sponsored child care. The facility has space for 73 children, up from the original capacity of 66. It serves children from six weeks to 5 years old. There is a lottery list for the estimated 14 spots that become available annually.
Email Currents at Currents@pge.com.