SOUTH RIVER–Providing year-round education to children for more than 35 years, the non-profit Calico Cat Preschool/daycare center will celebrate its 40th anniversary this month.
“We are a smaller sized friendly neighborhood center, welcoming children for the past 40 years,” Director and Classroom Lead Teacher Ilona Spatola said. “Our trained and certified staff strives to nurture the intellectual, creative, social, emotional, physical and spiritual development of every child and to inspire a lifelong commitment to learning in every child.”
Calico Cat was opened in September 1979 as a nursery school with an initial enrollment of 24 children.
“Holy Trinity Episcopal Church had built an education building, which was not being used outside of Sundays for church school instruction,” Spatola said. “Beverly Budd and other parish leaders discerned an opportunity to create a nursery school, which was to be staffed by teachers and aides recruited from the membership of the congregation.”
Spatola said the school was created to offer part-time nursery programs for both church members and families in the wider community.
“At this time there were fewer options for preschool education and childcare in the South River area,” Spatola said. “Traditionally, religious congregations have created schools as a ministry integral to their mission of nurturing children and caring for families.”
Spatola said the center offers a 12-month program. The preschool/daycare center is closed only on major national holidays and the last week of August in preparation for the new school year. During July and August, the preschool enrolls students for a summer camp program.
“As educators, we believe that every child can succeed and reach one’s highest potential in a comfortable, safe, nurturing and stimulating environment,” Spatola said. “Every child is unique and can learn when provided [with a] learning-rich setting and is guided through age-appropriate activities that are based on personal abilities, interests, specific needs and individual learning style.”
To celebrate its 40th anniversary, there will be a special church service of thanksgiving at 10 a.m. on Sept. 22 at Holy Trinity, 90 Leonardine Ave., South River, during which children enrolled in the school will participate. It will be followed by a cookout and picnic for the public. A special invitation is extended to alumni of the school of all ages, Spatola said.
Spatola said that the public may support Calico Cat Preschool through their gifts of time, talent and treasure.
“Time [meaning] volunteers are needed to support a variety of activities, both weekly and seasonal,” Spatola said. “Talent [meaning] volunteers are encouraged to contribute their skills and abilities to enrich the learning experience of the children. Treasure [meaning] financial gifts of any size are needed and deeply appreciated.”
As a not-for-profit, church-based school, Spatola said, “Calico Cat needs the financial support of donors to provide for resources which are not met through tuition fees. One anonymous donor recently donated half of the cost of a new curriculum resource.”