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YWCA of the Sauk Valley plans tribute to preschool

Community invited to celebrate 50 years of program at open house

STERLING – The YWCA of the Sauk Valley has planned an event for the community to reminisce and celebrate 50 years of the organization’s preschool program.

The public is invited to an open house from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. May 23 at the YWCA, 412 First Ave. The theme will be “50 Years of Shining Starts.” Memorabilia will be on display dating back to the launch of the program in 1964, with its first teacher, Marjorie Kontos.

The preschool will close at the end of this school year. The program now includes two classes of 2-year-olds, one of 3-year-olds, and one section of 4- and 5-year-olds.

The decision to close was made in March. It was based on several factors, including economics, teacher retirements, and ever-increasing state requirements, said Carol Fitzgerald, executive director of YWCA of the Sauk Valley.

While many preschools receive state and federal funding, the YWCA preschools must rely on parent fees, a small amount of United Way money, and donations. Last year, it cost about $77,000 to run the program.

The open house will feature 50 years of scrapbooks, photos of classes, teachers and fields trips. Guests will be able to contribute their favorite preschool memories for posting. Large display boards will be set up in the auditorium. Tours of the preschool classes and refreshments will be offered.

Compiling a half-century’s worth of history was no small task.

“We’re fortunate we kept scrapbooks and old newspaper clippings,” Rebecca Munoz-Ripley, YWCA director of marketing and community services, said. “The clippings go back to the first year – it’s fascinating to go back and look at everything.”

The final class days are Thursday for the 2- and 3-year-olds, and Friday for the 4-year-olds. The school year officially ends with class picnics May 19 and 20.

Fitzgerald said the open house is meant for the entire community, because so many people played roles in serving so many children over the years.

“We want to celebrate every special child, every amazing teacher, and all of the generous contributions from our community that have sustained us over the years,” Fitzgerald said.

Munoz-Ripley said the preschool program has touched just about every segment of the community.

“That’s what gives this event so much meaning,” she said. “Businesses have given us tours, people have made donation, and so many have come to preschool to speak. It’s important that everyone feels this tribute is for them.”

'50 Years of Shining Starts'

What: Open house to mark 50 years of YWCA preschool program

When: 3:30 to 5:30 p.m., Friday, May 23

Where: The YWCA of the Sauk Valley, 412 First Ave., Sterling

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