Lutheran Social Services of Indiana “expresses the love of Jesus Christ for all people through services that empower families and individuals to move towards emotional, spiritual, and social wholeness.” For over 100 years, the services they provide have continually met the needs of those in our community who have the deepest need. Regardless of family situation or income, Lutheran Social Services has used Christ’s love to impact the lives of many in the Fort Wayne area. They offer a wide array of services including adoption, teen and family counseling, disability outreach, and child care. Over the years, the need for these services has grown in our community. With this growing demand, Lutheran Social Services continues to be a beacon of light to those in need.
I had the opportunity this week to spend some time at Children’s Village. Children’s Village is an early learning center located on the campus of Lutheran Life Villages. The center focuses on early childhood development while promoting social and emotional well-being of children between the ages of 6 weeks and 6 years. A structured curriculum allows each child to learn the foundation for successful learning. This foundation will prepare the children for the challenges they will face when entering school. The curriculum also consists of intergenerational programming that enriches the lives of the children and the seniors at Lutheran Life Village. As I learned more about the programs provided, I was very excited to spend time at Children’s Village.
I arrived at the center around 8:30 on a Monday morning. I was greeted by Annie Miller, Director of Community Relations for Lutheran Social Services. She spent time with me sharing information about the mission and services provided by the organization. It was very obvious how passionate she was for the organization and the individuals they serve. She gave a me a tour of the facility showing me the different classrooms and explaining how the children are placed in each class. Children’s Village focuses on placing children based on development, not age. This allows the children to learn with other children who have similar capabilities and skills. After the short tour, I had the chance to enter a classroom of 3-5 year old children. As we entered, I received the normal stares that come with being 6’9″. Many of the children were instantly intrigued with my size and become distracted from their morning routine. After some discussion about shape patterns and a couple of songs, the children were divided into their small groups. Our small group was preparing for exercise class. This was a great chance for me to witness the intergenerational programming first hand.
We walked single file through the halls of Lutheran Life Village on our way to exercise class. This class gives the children the opportunity to interact with the seniors while focusing on exercise and physical fitness. Getting a small group of preschoolers to walk quietly through the hallways is a challenge in itself. As we approached the elevator to go upstairs, one young boy became very concerned that I would not fit on the elevator. He was afraid that I was too tall and that I would have to be left behind. He was very happy to see that I fit comfortably on the elevator and was allowed to participate in class. The seniors were waiting on us to arrive. Each child paired up with a senior and they went through a number of stretches and exercises together. A real sense of community is created during this class. It was clear to me that the seniors enjoyed having the children with them as many laughed and smiled at the antics exhibited during exercising. For the children, exercising was a learning experience and a chance to burn some energy.
After returning to class, I sat down with a few of the children to play with Play-Doh. Each child got to select a toy or activity to participate in during this time of class. I sat down at the table in an extremely small chair. The whole time holding my breath hoping that I would not destroy it. Playing with the children gave me the chance to connect with them and have some fun. I made a snake from my Doh and asked the kids to give her a name. They decided to name her Brain. An interesting name from some interesting children. We laughed as we pretended that she was trying to bite us. I was then asked to create a baby snake that we would later name Baby Brain. The children I was playing with really started to open up to me and show me affection. Further proof that small investments of time can make a big difference in the life of a child.
After play time, we sat down on the floor to hear stories of the Gingerbread Man read by a classroom visitor. It wasn’t long until I had two beautiful young ladies fighting to sit in my lap as we enjoyed the books. It was obvious that I had made some new friends during my short time that morning. Seeing the smiles on their faces as we listened to stories are images that cannot be forgotten. I think they enjoyed having me around and I know that had a great time with them.
I have spent time with many organizations that focus on the youth of our community. Most of those organizations focus time on children who are older than the age of 6. Children’s Village reaches out to impact children at an early age through structured content. The skills and knowledge gained gives them a foundation that allows for learning success in the future. The staff of the center is passionate and committed to the safety and development of each and every child. They are also committed to creating a place where parents are encouraged to participate and enjoy learning together through group interaction. I was very impressed with and honored to have had the chance to learn about Children’s Village. You can visit http://www.lssin.org to more about Lutheran Social Services and Children’s Village. You will see that there are many ways to get involved. The children of the community are our future. I ask you to get involved because parents cannot do it alone. It takes a village to raise a child.