What Early Childhood Education Means to the Simpson Family

Devon Kessler
September 6, 2023 | Features, Tasting Room | Devon Kessler

What Early Childhood Education Means to the Simpson Family

As kids across Northern Michigan are getting ready to go back to school, we wanted to take a look at The Leelanau Children’s Center and how Good Harbor Vineyards and the Simpson Family continue to help support education for young children in Leelanau County.

The Leelanau Children’s center began in the basement of the Leland United Methodist Church in 1976, where John and Millie Simpson, founders of Harbor Hill Fruit Farms and Good Harbor Vineyards, were active members. What started as a playgroup for a small number of children, quickly grew into a full time daycare as more and more parents expressed the need for childcare in the area. It was clear there was a void in the community that needed to be filled. The program continued to grow and eventually the church could no longer accommodate the space needs for all of the children and staff. John Simpson and Millie Simpson, along with a few other key church members convinced the church board to donate an area on the church property to build a new building for the Leelanau Children’s Center. John Simpson was the head of  fundraising efforts to raise enough money to build a new separate building to accommodate the growing child care needs of the community. Through generous donors and support of the local community, enough money was raised and the building was constructed.  

The Leelanau Children’s Center serves preschoolers from age 30 months to 5 years and focuses on early relationships, early experiences, and child-initiated play-based learning. In 2001, following the passing of John Simpson, the Simpson Family Scholarship was formed.  This scholarship is used toward sustainable teacher compensation, tuition-free learning for all children regardless of their socio-economic status and, hopefully, will have enough money to one day build a larger facility. The Simpson Family continues to support early childhood education through donations to the Seasonal Farmworker Children’s Program through the Northwest Education Services that provides free tuition to 8 students of local working migrant families.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, about 63% of 3-5 years old were enrolled in school overall in October 2021, however the enrollment rates of Latin children ages 3-5 years old were much lower.

John and Millie Simpson’s grandchildren and current owners of Good Harbor Vineyards, Taylor and Sam Simpson, continue to support the fundraising efforts of this scholarship. The scholarship helps ensure every child has the opportunity to receive a high-quality education which creates the foundation for a successful future and a healthier community.

For the past two years, the Simpson Family has hosted the annual Leelanau Grown event for The Leelanau Children’s Center. The event is the biggest fundraiser for the school that helps raise funds for the Simpson Family Scholarship. During the 2023 event, The Leelanau Children’s Center raised $92,000 with a $40,000 matching gift bringing the total funds raised to $132,680. If you’d like to donate to the fund, you can do so online.



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