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A Moment in Time: Eighth Street Preschool

Sandy Wingard and pastor Paul Goering were staffing the registration table for Central District Conference’s 1973 meeting, which Eighth Street hosted that year, when – during a period of inactivity while everyone was in a business session – they began to talk about the church beginning a preschool. Wingard raised the possibility. She had been giving it thought and knew that there was a good deal of support for the idea among younger families at the church and in the broader community.

Seven years earlier the Church Board had considered a request from the Salvation Army to use the church building for a day-care center, but the licensing requirements for a day-long program with meals were more than the church was willing to take on.

But the idea had not gone away, and Wingard was raising it again. Pastor Goering liked the idea and encouraged Sandy to develop a concrete proposal. Within a few weeks she and other women in the church had prepared a detailed plan for a half-day preschool offering two classes, with one meeting Tuesdays and Thursdays and another on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Wingard and Jane Brookmyer would be the teachers.

In remarkably short order the plan was approved by the church and the county, supplies were purchased and space rearranged, and on October 1, 1973 Eighth Street Preschool opened its doors to thirty-three children. From the beginning there was provision for families who could not pay tuition.  

This ministry is now in its fortieth year, and approximately 2,400 children have passed through its doors.

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Many, many Eighth Street members and attendees have been associated with the preschool thorugh its history, as teaching and support staff, board members, students, and parents of students. A staff list – likely incomplete – includes the following Eighth Street members who have been teachers or assistant teachers: Jeanette Bechtel, Sharon Beechy, Betty Jo Boshart, Jane Brookmyer, Marcy Gerig, Helen Gruenewald, Pat Minnick, Char Springer, Jane Swihart, Sandy Wingard, and Erma Yoder. In 2013 Kristin Neufeld was on staff as a teacher aide and had been with the Preschool since 1997.

Preschool directors have been Sandy Wingard, 1973-1981; Jeanette Bechtel, 1981-1984; Jane Slabaugh Garber, 1984-1985; Sharon Beechy, 1985-1987; Pat Minnick, 1987-1999; Char Sprunger, 1999-2001; Bonnie Miller, 2001-2005; Alison Kirkton, 2005-2007; Rachel Nolt, 2007-2008; and Angela Miller, 2008-present.

In its early years, the program was known as Eighth Street Nursery School.

Source: Eighth Street Preschool administrative files; Rachel W. Kreider, The History of the Eighth Street Mennonite Church, 1913-1978 (1987).