Stepping Stones Finds New Home

Plains Mennonite Church opened up its doors to Stepping Stones Nursery School
By Tony Di Domizio, Montgomeryville-Lansdale Patch

Stepping Stones Nursery School has found a new home at Plains Mennonite Church in Hatfield Township.

The daycare, which cares for 55 children, re-opened for business on Thursday, Jan. 12. “By Monday, they were signing papers and moving in,” said Plains Mennonite Church Pastor Dawn Ranck.

Ranck said the agreement is temporary, for now.

“Then, we’ll see and they’ll see,” Ranck said. “They need time to figure out the next steps.”

Ranck approached Stepping Stones and Grace Lutheran Church about using space at their church for daycare services.

“We thought right away that we could house daycare or drama (Laymen Playmen). We talked to different people in the church, and four of us went to the church council chair. We knew there was support,” Ranck said. “We went over to the church and said, ‘If you need us, we’re available.’”

Stepping Stones director Lori Bezanis said many surrounding churches offered their help. “I was doing the best I could to stay as close as I could to where we were,” Bezanis said. “It seemed like the best location.”

Bezanis said Ken Crest Services was located at Plains Mennonite for many years, and she knew they had moved from that location. “I knew it had been set up at one time for preschool,” Bezanis said. “The fire marshal and code people went and checked it out and gave me the thumbs up.”

Bezanis said it was awesome for Ranck and the church to approach Stepping Stones and offer their space temporarily. “I can’t thank them enough for making us feel so welcome and so at home,” Bezanis said. “They bent over backwards to accommodate us.”

Bezanis said Stepping Stones was poised to relocate next door to Bethany Bible Fellowship. However, the code inspector did not approve it.

“They called us on Friday a week ago and said, ‘Can we check you out?’” Ranck said.

Ranck said the Plains Mennonite Sunday school teachers were willing to give up control of the space.

“We still use the space on Sunday, but (Stepping Stones teachers) are decorating the rooms since they are there the most,” Ranck said. “Teachers share space on the bulletin board.”

Stepping Stones runs Monday to Friday, Bezanis said. “On Friday evening, we have to clean up a bit more and put things away a bit more than during the week,” Ranck said. “They and we are both committed to making it work.”

The relocation of Stepping Stones has also brought some new, young life into the church. “My office is down that hallway,” Ranck said. “It’s really fun having kids in that hallway and hearing noises in a hall that is normally quiet.”

Other churches have stepped forward to help out Grace Lutheran Church and Stepping Stones Nursery School. Lansdale United Methodist Church has opened its doors to the Laymen Playmen. Christ United Methodist Church’s education and missions departments donated a very large amount of money for the daycare to buy supplies from U.S. Toy in Montgomeryville.

Local Girl Scout troops also volunteered time to raising money for Grace Lutheran Church.

“And we are still getting donations, which is awesome,” Bezanis said.

She said parents really like the new location. “I’ve heard only positive remarks from parents. They are very pleased,” Bezanis said.

She added that the daycare wants to get into a permanent location down the road, but she can’t say when that’s going to be. There’s talk of adding modular classrooms at the Grace Lutheran Church site.

“In the meantime, we are at Plains and liking it. We are getting adjusted and getting settled. The kids are very happy,” Bezanis said. “(Plains Mennonite Church) has been more than accommodating and we are more than grateful for helping us out.”

Even local businesses have donated time to make the youth at Stepping Stones happy. Giggle Magic and Magic Marcy, of Harleysville, did a show for the students on Monday. On Wednesday, All About Paint will be painting the children’s faces. Jumpin Jack’s Indoor Inflatable Playland, in Hatfield, opened its doors for the children recently as well.

What’s even more positive is, in the wake of the New Year’s Eve fire, membership at Stepping Stones has not been affected.

Ranck said there was no hesitation in helping Stepping Stones and Grace Lutheran Church. “We are one piece of the puzzle, but not the whole puzzle,” Ranck said. “It’s the community coming together.”

She said the church had space and Stepping Stones had a need. “It’s not a question of ‘Do we do this?’; it was ‘How do we make this happen?’” she said.

Copyright © 2012 Patch. Reprinted by Permission.