About fourteen years ago, I had just rolled off the board of the Chamber of Commerce, I was becoming accustomed to my job as editor at the newspaper, and I was finding a way to migrate most of my GamTex Consulting computer customers to other providers. I was ready to revel in the increased free time I had, and then I got a call from the nominating committee at First United Methodist Church asking me to serve on the Education Committee. It didn't really look to be too time-intensive, so I said yes.
Then, the Education Committee made the decision to commit itself to creating a preschool as a ministry of the church. That decision would lead to the establishment of Steady Steps Preschool at FUMC, the hiring of Rev. Margaret Persky as our first director, and to a history of children finding a safe and secure place to spend their weekdays, freeing up parents to focus on providing a living for their families.
At Queen's Coronation this year, word got around that Margaret Persky, though unable to attend, had asked a friend to take a photo of several of the students, who coincidentally, had been in Steady Steps during its first year of operation. The kids not only were happy to oblige, they were falling all over themselves to give Ms. Persky the photo she had requested as a small token of their gratitude for what she had given them.
I remember in the first years after Steady Steps was in operation hearing stories from teachers up at school. They said that they could easily identify which of their students had been in the Steady Steps program. Those students already knew their ABCs, knew how to count, understood how a school schedule worked,,,, and they said grace before their snacks and meals.
A dozen years, and hundreds of kids, down the road, and Steady Steps is still a vital ministry of First United Methodist Church. The enrollment had dropped as other providers entered the market in Mason County, and then soared last spring as they once again became the sole provider of preschool and daycare services for area parents. The increase in students has not been without its bumps as the Steady Steps staff faced challenges of staffing, space availability and scheduling. But, they have faced it, and they enter 2014 stronger than ever and ready to serve yet another generation of Mason County youth.
Steady Steps is operated as a non-profit ministry of First United Methodist Church. It offers its preschool and daycare services on a sliding scale (based upon income) so that it may serve ALL the children in the county, not just those can afford its quality of service. But, even non-profits have to pay their bills.
FUMC provides Steady Steps with the use of their education building, as well as a financial stipend to help them with their costs. Parents pay tuition for their children to attend, and for the first time in four years, Steady Steps is increasing its fees in 2014. But, in order to keep teacher/student ratios small, and to provide all the resources necessary to raising up children in a secure, nurturing Christian educational setting, their costs continue to rise.
Steady Steps is fortunate in that the parishioners at FUMC give generously when special collections are taken to supplement their income. And, the entire Mason community responds with generosity when rodeos, geranium sales and bake sales are held as fundraisers. But, the Steady Steps Council (a church committee tasked with supervising the program) has had to do an extreme amount of belt tightening to keep everything running as it should
This Christmas, as you see the Mason County children who came up through Steady Steps enjoying the many gifts and presents of the season, see the richness of the lessons those children have learned along the way. Know that, even though Steady Steps is an official ministry of First United Methodist Church, its classrooms are filled with children from First Baptist, St. Paul Lutheran, Church of Christ, St. Joseph Catholic and River of Life households. It also helps children who come from "unchurched" households have an opportunity to learn about God and Christ at an early and formative age.
Many people use the last week of the calendar year to determine how much charitable giving remains in their budgets. They then try to make the determination of what groups and organizations will receive those funds.
This year, give a gift to the children of Mason County by making a tax deductible donation to Steady Steps Preschool. It is a gift that will continue to give back for many years.
It’s all just my opinion.