Noe Valley Voice June 2006

An SOS from the Little People

By Laura McHale Holland

It worked once. Here's hoping it'll work again. Back in 1999, an article in this newspaper helped connect Little People's Workshop, a cooperatively-run, pre-preschool program for tots 11/2 to 3 years old, with Bethany United Methodist Church on Sanchez Street.

At that time, the low-cost childcare option for young families faced eviction from its Cortland Street home because the building was sold. Not even pleas from then Mayor Willie Brown, former State Senator John Burton, and four city supervisors could persuade the new landlord to extend the school's lease. After 23 years of bringing tykes together for their first away-from-home explorations, Little People's Workshop had to go.

But after reading about the little school's fate in these pages, members of Bethany's faith community opened their hearts and their doors. The school and Bethany have had a symbiotic relationship ever since.

But now Bethany needs to renovate its building, and once again, Little People's Workshop has to move. "We're in desperate need of a new home," says Molly Michelson, one of the parents in the school and a member of the committee looking for new quarters. "We have until the end of the year, but we'd like to be settled by August because we have a big turnover in September, and we'd like for the new kids to not get used to this space and then have to adjust to another location in just a couple of months."

The co-op has 14 families, but only eight children attend each day. "It's a full-day program, and children can attend from two to four days a week," says Michelson. "Parents work shifts depending on how many days the children go. One parent provides a hot lunch every day, and another provides snacks. And we have different activities, games and art projects, and trips to the park. We also invite the public to join us for AcroSports [tumbling, dance, and circus arts] and music for the kids once or twice a week."

Don't worry. The tots get to rest, too. They all nestle in for naps from 12:30 to 2 or 3 p.m.

Member families live in Noe Valley, Bernal Heights, the Castro, and the Inner Sunset. They'd like to keep Little People's Workshop as close as possible to its current location. Michelson says the workshop needs two rooms, a bathroom, an outdoor space, and proximity to a park and Muni.

If you'd like to have the pitter-patter of little feet in your building or if you know of a potential location for this little school which has served the community for decades, please give Michelson a ring at 516-4041 or call Little People's Workshop at 647-7607.