by: ELIZABETH USSHER GROFF - After helping to serve ice cream, Evan Hitchman, a fifth grader at Duniway Elementary, savors his own ice cream sundae at a fundraiser for Blooming Garden Preschool, where he attended until 2006. Blooming Garden's Teacher Pia and her two daughters, one a preschooler and one a graduate, enjoy the fun.The large basement social hall of Trinity United Methodist Church at S.E. 39th (Cesar Chavez Blvd) and Steele Street in Woodstock was filled with happy laughter of children on Saturday night, October 6th.

An ice cream social and silent auction for “Blooming Garden Preschool” were the featured evening events for preschoolers and their siblings, families, grandparents, and neighbors.

Large tubs of tasty frozen confections from Woodstock’s Cloud City Ice Cream – Chocolate, Fluffy Vanilla, and Circus Friends flavors, as well as Marion Berry Lime sorbet – were topped with Cloud City’s salted caramel sauce and other toppings donated by parents. Ice cream mustaches were appearing on smiling children as they and adults enjoyed the custom sundaes they created.

The ice cream servers included Blooming Garden alumni who are now students at Duniway, Grout, Lewis, Llewellyn, and Woodstock Elementary Schools.

After the children finished their ice cream, older siblings helped the preschoolers with a scavenger hunt, and the junior and senior preschool classrooms were opened for viewing and playing.

Stopping by the junior classroom, teacher Heather Zelinsky responded to an attendee’s surprise that the silent auction items were procured not just from local shops and artists but also from various businesses around the city: “Our parents really took on the responsibility for procuring most of the items and did a great job.”

The preschool at Trinity United Methodist Church opened over thirty years ago, and for many years was called “Day Bright”, until the name was changed to “Blooming Garden” seven years ago. This past spring Blooming Garden’s owner was ready to move on and Jennie Hitchman, then a teacher at Blooming Garden, decided to become owner/director and continue as a teacher.

Currently the school has 28 preschoolers – 11 in the junior class, and 17 in the senior class – plus three teachers and a lot of parent involvement.

“They say it takes a village to raise a child, well, it takes a village to run a preschool too,” says Hitchman, whose love of interacting with the children on a daily basis keeps her happy with her job.

Information gleaned from the preschool’s website shows a typical morning routine of free choice play and art activities, broken up by group time (“Morning Meeting”) that includes singing, stories, monthly theme-based hands-on projects, and class discussion. On good-weather days these activities are complemented by more active play on the small outdoor playground.

Hitchman says that when weather doesn’t permit playing outside, the children have “trike time” in the gym using tricycles and toys, many of which have been donated by parents over the years when older children outgrow them. For most families, a first child’s attendance is followed by attendance of subsequent siblings.

As the evening ended, children with vanilla and chocolate mustaches gathered with their families, while anticipatory adults waited to hear who had won the silent auction items. Proceeds from the auction will be put back into the school, to help supplement the modest monthly fees of $170 for 3 year olds, and $210 for 4-5 year olds.

For more information on the venerable preschool, go online to: HYPERLINK ""

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