By JANET HEIM
5:19 PM EDT, September 9, 2012
Three decades ago, it seemed like a crazy idea.
On Sunday, Mother’s Day Out at Emmanuel United Methodist Church in Hagerstown was recognized in a celebration marking 30 years for a program the community has embraced.
The anniversary celebration was held during the church’s 9:30 a.m. worship service.
When Lillian Marquart (now Myers), then the Christian education director at the church, proposed starting a weekly program for preschoolers and their parents at her church in 1982, members at Emmanuel United Methodist Church were skeptical. It was before the days when preschool was the norm.
She was involved with a similar program in Chambersburg, Pa., and thought the program might be a good fit for Hagerstown. The program provided preschoolers with more than five hours of learning and socialization one day a week, freeing up their parents for the same time period.
Myers asked to speak to Lorraine Golden, a church member with a preschool-age daughter, who also provided day care for another child. Myers wanted Golden’s opinion about the idea and was surprised when Golden offered to coordinate it.
“That was the thing. There was nothing like this in town. I honestly thought it would never get off the ground,” Golden said.
As coordinator, Golden recruited two teachers each for the 2-year-old room and the 3- and 4-year-old room. She took charge of the baby room, for infants 6 months up to age 2, with the assistance of Connie Mozingo, who became her “right-hand person.”
“We had no money. We were starting on a shoestring and didn’t want to ask the church for money. I’m sure they thought we were crazy, too,” Golden said.
She said it was a Herald-Mail story that generated a lot of interest.
“My phone started ringing the week after The Herald-Mail story. We knew there was a need,” Golden said.
Mother Amy Werner of Hedgesville, W.Va., can attest to the importance of the program. Five of Werner’s seven children, who range in age from 14 years to 2 months, have gone through the program, and she’s grateful for it.
“I cram as many errands in as possible. I schedule doctor’s appointments, occasionally meet my husband for lunch, go home and clean or fix dinner,” Werner said. “To me, it’s one of the best deals in town for child care. It’s well worth the money.”
Werner said she has no family in the area and her husband travels for his job. When her youngest was born recently, some of the teachers came to visit.
“It’s kind of like an extended family. Instead of therapy and antidepressants, this is my therapy,” Werner said.
Golden served as coordinator for 10 years until 1992, then took another turn from 1996 to 1998. Peggy Dudley has been coordinator since 2002, and Edith Hahn is treasurer. Both serve as teachers.
“I don’t remember the dates, but I’ve been treasurer forever,” Hahn said.
The Mother’s Day Out program is on Tuesday from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. during the school year. Children bring their own lunches and take part in a semi-scheduled day with learning activities and occasional guest visitors in the morning, lunch, then quiet time in the afternoon.
Children learn about shapes, colors and numbers, Dudley said. Special events might include Fire Safety Day and Farm Day.
“It’s an outreach program of our church to the community. It’s not Bible-based, but we try to teach Christian values — love, respect,” Dudley said.
Teachers receive a “gift” each month for their services.
“We had one teacher give all her pay back to the church for missions. She wasn’t even a member here,” Hahn said.
The teachers are a mix of church members and those hired from the community. St. Andrew’s United Methodist Church has a similar program called Parents Day Out on Thursdays, and some of the teachers teach in both programs. Some of the children attend both programs, as well.
“I think it meets a really good need in the community. It gives parents a break during the week. It provides a good, safe place for kids to be,” said Randy Reid, pastor of Emmanuel United Methodist Church.
The program is run like a preschool, not just a drop-in program, because once children are registered, they’re expected to be there each week. The cost is $50 per month, regardless of whether there are four or five Tuesdays in a month, Hahn said.
The church is at 802 Summit Ave. in Hagerstown.
There are openings in the program.
For more information, call Dudley at 301-733-3097 or the church office at 301-733-4720.
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