Silver anniversary for Pleasant Valley Baptist Preschool

       The Pleasant Valley Baptist Church Preschool will celebrate its 25-year anniversary Friday, Nov. 2 with a chili dinner from 4 to 7 p.m. Director Susie Butler, who helped start the program in 1982 and has been its director since '83, says she's sent out about 200 invitations to past students and people who've worked with her over the years; she also welcomes anyone who's ever been involved with the facility inside the church at 3010 W. Bijou St.
       “People can come by and reminisce,” she said. “I've asked them to bring nostalgic photos, and we'll spread them out on the table.”
       Although there have been some modernizations since Pleasant Valley opened its doors Oct. 26, 1982, with three students (now it's licensed for 60, and there are no openings), the basic goal remains the same - to offer Christian daycare on the Westside. The idea also matched a goal of then-pastor James Henderson, who wanted a ministry for single mothers in the area, Butler explained.
       The preschool continues to be for ages 2 ˝ to 4; also offered are before- and after-school daycare and summer school for kids up to age 12. The enrollees come from different parts of the Westside area. A 15-passenger church bus picks up youngsters after school at Howbert, Whittier and Manitou elementaries. Overall, she said, only about 5 percent of the kids are from Pleasant Valley Baptist families.
       The Christian aspect is brought out, not by teaching “doctrine,” but through “simple Bible stories” and emphasis on character and morals, Butler said. Over the years, she noted, “we've had children from all faiths, and no faiths.”
       Butler herself is a church member who grew up on the Westside (including when her parents owned the Buffalo Lodge), attending Whittier, West and Coronado schools. In 1982, she was taking night classes at Pikes Peak Community College, working at a daycare on the Westside and teaching Sunday school at Pleasant Valley Baptist.
       At that time, Butler said, there were no other church-offered preschools on the Westside. Her sister-in-law's sister, Valinda Goodwin, asked Butler to help her open one at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, but plans didn't come together. So the idea of having it at Pleasant Valley Baptist was brought to Pastor Henderson. “He was very excited about having it here,” Butler recalled. The church membership voted to set it up, using an outdoor playground, some rooms in the finished church basement and the church kitchen to prepare breakfasts, lunches and snacks.
       An experienced daycare teacher was hired to be the director, but that only lasted about half a year. “I became director in the summer of '83,” Butler said. “I was 21 and a little nervous. There was a lot of responsibility.”
       Fortunately, Butler's family is pretty tight. Her sister, Kathryn Martin (now a teacher at Pike Elementary), helped her out. “She was going to stay six months, but she stayed 12 years,” Butler said with a smile.
       She also credits her husband Cliff and parents Donald and Barbara Goodwin for their assistance over the years. Even now, Barbara is the operation's cook, while Donald helps with the bookkeeping.
       The family connections have carried on to Butler's children, Cliff Jr. and Hollie. Both attended the preschool and still help out - especially Hollie, who is part of the teaching staff.
       Steady funding and volunteer support has come through the church. “They wanted a place for the kids,” Butler summarized. She also expressed appreciation for the preschool staff, several of whom have stayed with her for many years.
       Looking back on the quarter-century, she said “it's very humbling” to think about how many children have gone through the preschool - and “very rewarding” to see how many have grown up to lead good lives. Some have even enrolled their own kids in Pleasant Valley.
       “I run into lots of our former kids. They see the playground equipment we have now and say 'We only had tires,'” Butler laughed. “Or they ask, 'Do you still serve Cowboy Casserole?' and I say 'What?' and they say 'Don't you even remember?'”

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