DCP set to hold annual Community Day


Delaware Cooperative Preschool (DCP) is continuing its celebration of 40 years in the community with the second annual Community Day on Saturday, May 4, at Asbury United Methodist Church, located at 55 W. Lincoln Ave.

The festivities will include a “Star Wars” theme in honor of the date, a rummage sale, 30 raffle baskets with $1 tickets, a 50/50 raffle, a bake sale, and activities for children. All proceeds will support the nonprofit preschool. The Community Day is free to attend and will run from 9 a.m. to noon.

“I like to call it a FUNdraiser because of course as a nonprofit, we have financial needs that we need to meet every year,” DCP Board President Maura Atwater told The Gazette. “We try to keep our tuition very reasonable for families. But we want to make this like a wide-open community event that’s free to attend. Essentially, we’re creating this circular economy. We know we have many young families who are outgrowing things all of the time, and I realize that if we gave them an outlet to donate items they’re no longer using, we could repurpose them to generate a little extra income for the school.”

Atwater said the hope is that the fundraiser will allow DCP to reimagine its outdoor space.

“This spring, we got two grants to plant pollinator gardens along the side of the building where our classroom windows face so our children can have a more direct interaction with nature,” she said. “And then we’re also expanding our outdoor play area so they have more options there when they’re out letting off steam during gross motor play. We’re going to open up the fencing a little bit and add some more features for the class next fall.”

DCP was founded in 1984 after a group of families developed a relationship as part of a family playgroup program run by the Delaware Park and Recreation Department at Mingo Park. As their children aged out of the program, the group worked with the city to continue the program through a formalized preschool cooperative.

What started as approximately five families grew to more than 80 families sending their children to preschool at DCP in the 1990s. As a cooperative, parents of the children attending the school would stay while their children were there to help run the program. With the program no longer being supported by the city, the preschool found new homes at various churches before settling in at Asbury United Methodist in 2005.

“It’s very different in that it’s a cooperative,” said Atwater of how DCP differs from traditional preschool settings. “That’s one thing that has not changed since 1984. Every family that enrolls at DCP makes a commitment to send their child and pay tuition but also come and be a part of the educational experience. We have volunteer schedules still, and parents will come and work in the classroom alongside the teachers depending on how often their child attends … That means the families are directly present and understanding the impact of everything their child experiences as they’re in the program.”

In addition to the parents’ involvement, DCP also has committees and a board entirely run by volunteers.

“It’s a very changeable experience from year to year because it really is a function of who the current members are, and there are people who are very passionate about education specifically or maybe about the natural world,” Atwater said. “We’ve had lots of educators and child psychologists, occupational therapists, and speech therapists in our group of families. We’ve also had musicians and firefighters, police officers, and other first responders. So all those community members are in the classroom as parents and working with their kids and getting to know others’ kids, but also bringing their wealth of knowledge about their own careers or vocations and sharing that with the kids as well.”

Because parents are so heavily involved in the school, Atwater said the cooperative element helps to foster a family atmosphere at DCP that may not always be found at other schools.

“I refer to it as a big family,” she said. “We have quarterly meetings, and there aren’t too many times when the whole school is all together because you’re just there on the days your child attends usually. But at our first quarterly meeting in September, I said that this is a family made up of 55 families because that’s really what it is.”

Atwater added, “I see this small preschool community as a microcosm of our wider Delaware community. It’s such a representative cross-section. We have families at every placement in the community, working in all these different sectors, living in all these different neighborhoods. We have families that drive here from Marion, Ostrander and Radnor. It’s just incredible. It’s exciting to know I can walk into my kids’ schools and interact with every corner of life in our county.”

While they may be celebrating 40 years of service in Delaware this year, Atwater believes there are more celebrations to come for DCP, and she’s honored to have played a role in continuing to build its legacy.

“After we had the celebration for the anniversary a couple of weeks ago, I said, ‘Here’s to the next 40 years’ because it’s a proven model,” Atwater said. “I, myself, attended a cooperative preschool in a church basement not unlike this one when I was 3, 4, and 5 years old, so to have come into this community and specifically this board and be able to serve as the president at this milestone year is very gratifying to me.

“I think a lot of community organizations, nonprofits, and educational organizations struggled a lot through the pandemic because we couldn’t even hold classes … It was very difficult and uncharted waters after that lockdown, but I am so proud of our community and particularly the board members I’ve gotten to work with. They’ve been some of the most dedicated, tenacious, creative men and women I’ve met who are so rooted in Delaware at large, but their specific contributions through the love they have for our children are just setting this institution up for continued success. To have been a part of that at all is amazing, but to get to celebrate the 40th anniversary and kind of finish my board tenure on such a high note is personally satisfying, too.”

For more information on DCP and its Community Day, visit www.dcpkids.com.

Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.

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