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The preschool of First United Methodist Church in Brookhaven is ready for another 50 years

The story goes that one of the men of First United Methodist Church — a father of three boys — realized there was a need for another daycare in town when his baby girl hit kindergarten age.

That’s how the FUMC Preschool got started, said Betty Ann Perkins, who helped get the program running 50 years ago.

FUMC Preschool is hosting a 50-year anniversary celebration with events tonight and Friday.

Clifford the Big Red Dog makes an appearance today in the old church fellowship hall from 6 to 7 p.m. for Friends and Family Night, said Director Nicole Froelicher.

Organizers will serve popcorn and treats to all who attend.

The school’s annual book fair will also be underway. Though most of the offerings are for the younger readers, there are a few books that would interest parents and grandparents. Teachers also have books marked as “wish list” items.

“A lot of parents like to buy books for the classroom,” Froelicher said.

The celebration continues Friday with a western-themed lunch and program from noon to 1:30 p.m. in the ministry center. All students, parents, teachers and directors — both past and present — are invited to attend.

Perkins was director of children’s activities at the church when Bill Furlow pointed out to her that there were kindergartens in town for Baptist and Presbyterian children, but not one for Methodists.

Perkins met with the education director and they visited kindergartens throughout the state before establishing their own at FUMC.

They started with classes for 4-year-olds and 5-year-olds. At the time, 5-year-olds couldn’t be enrolled in public schools.

The next year they expanded the program to include 3-year-olds.

“We had a waiting list,” she said.

She’s glad Furlow brought it to their attention.

“We had not thought of having that program in our church until someone said we needed it,” she said. “It’s been a good program and I’m glad that I had a part in it.”

The program currently has 62 students from six weeks to 4 years old. Froelicher said there’s a waiting list for the limited spots that become available.

Teachers use the Abeka Christian curriculum in their classrooms and attend training as a group in Pensacola, Florida, once a year.

Two of the teachers at FUMC Preschool were once students there.

“We have some very dedicated teachers that love their classrooms,” she said.

Froelicher said the preschool is a good place for students to learn manners and social skills along with math and reading.

“We’re teaching the next generation,” she said. “Early education is very important to help them get a head start on kindergarten.”