A Jefferson City businesswoman's grit and determination that helped her get through the COVID-19 pandemic was called out for statewide attention Wednesday.
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson recognized Sharon Winton during the 2023 State of the State Address on Wednesday afternoon.
She wasn't the only local faces honored: two students from Blair Oaks Elementary were also brought in and recognized by the governor at the end of the speech.
"Ms. Winton stayed the course and kept her doors open," Parson said in his speech, "even as enrollment declined and revenue fell."
Winton has been the director of Discovery Place Daycare, a child care facility that serves Jefferson City and the surrounding area, for 33 years. Discovery Place serves children from early childhood up until age 6.
Parson highlighted how the state's Office of Childhood provided services to help Discovery Place through financial hardship.
"We received some payroll protection plans," Winton said, "which helped us through the lean period, particularly in the heart of COVID. Without those funds being made available to us, we probably would have folded after 33 years."
Parson announced a proposal for three new child care tax programs. He also mentioned a proposed $78 million increase to child care subsidy rates for providers across Missouri.
"Together, these actions will help more child care providers to start their business, to stay in business or expand their business," Parson said.
Winton also said the organization received grants from the Office of Childhood to improve technological equipment and upgrade Discovery Place's facilities.
She added, "There are a lot of things that are needed in early child care: access to training, access to better funding, better food opportunities."
Toward the end of the governor's speech, he welcomed students from Blue Ribbon schools across Missouri including Blair Oaks Elementary students Emmerson Hilty and Preston Snitker.
A small group of children from Discovery Place also joined the crowd of students, waving at Winton in the gallery as the governor said they were there to "show you their American dream."
After the speech, the guests were invited for a photo opportunity at the governor's office. Emmerson, a second-grader, said her favorite part of her school was the teachers.
Reflecting on her long career in the city, Winton emphasized the importance of the close-knit community in Jefferson City.
"You can't go anywhere without seeing someone that recognizes you," she said. "I appreciate being able to reconnect with them in the eyes."