When the community hears of The Foundry, our hope is that the heart of our mission comes to mind: “…to empower children and families to bring about spiritual and community transformation.” As we strive to live out our mission, not only have children and families been empowered by The Foundry, but our staff members and volunteers have, as well.
Sonja Blatchford began working with The Foundry in 2014 through her role as Senior Staff Associate at Broadway United Methodist Church. She and Pastor Adam Shourds, also from Broadway UMC, thoughtfully began writing The Foundry’s strategic plan. Listening to God’s calling, Broadway United Methodist Church played a vital role in preparing and launching the new preschool at The Foundry. Senior Pastor, Rick Bard, believed Sonja would be the right person to take over many of the new duties The Foundry presented, so he offered to place her in a staff position at The Foundry. The Foundry Board of Directors welcomed that offer and appointed her Interim Executive Director in the fall of 2014. Sonja assisted with hiring the initial staff, led the renovation of the building, and tended to the multiple tedious steps required for The Foundry to become state licensed. Despite all the challenges she knew the project would entail, Sonja’s conviction that God was leading this process drove her passion.
“I understood that the plans we were making as a team affected lives,” Sonja said. “I knew I would be taken out of my comfort zone. It kept me praying to remain faithful and open to the ways God was stretching me. My conviction that God had ordained this ministry gave me assurance that He would provide—and He did in amazing and wonderful ways. His business is transformation, after all!”
Working to turn The Foundry into a functioning, state-licensed preschool would undoubtedly hit some snags along the way. Sonja remembered the team working tirelessly for months to prepare for the state inspection. This preparation required attention to multiple details—the facility, curriculum, employee training, classrooms, and stacks of paperwork. The inspector arrived and was in awe of all the work that had been done. When she tested the water in the preschool bathroom sink, however, it wasn’t hot enough to pass inspection.
“I thought I might cry then and there,” Sonja confessed. “I prayed big time, and God provided.” The contractor was called, soon arrived to make a quick adjustment to the water heater and The Foundry became a state-licensed preschool.
“What kept me going was my conviction that God’s hand was on this ministry, and all we had to do was be faithful and rely on Him every step of the way. In truth, God could have accomplished it without any of us or the many, many people and churches that were involved in launching it. But He knew that in the process each of us would be transformed and would be blessed in amazing ways.”
And God continues to bless in amazing ways. Even during this difficult time of navigating a pandemic, The Foundry reopened our doors on Tuesday, Sept. 8th for our Preschool Academy with precautions being taken to keep our students and staff safe.
Teachers are daily sanitizing their rooms and have eliminated cloth toys and rugs. Instead of eating in the lunchroom, students are eating within their pods of ten in their own classroom. The instructional day has also changed to better adapt to the circumstances. Some of our preschoolers would normally come for a half day of instruction in either the morning or afternoon, but they are now alternating days and staying for the whole day, since half days would require time for additional daily sanitization.
Another helpful accommodation is that teachers are wearing plastic shield masks. This allows students to read their teachers’ lips, which is especially important for students learning to speak English. It also allows students to see more of their teachers’ faces and welcoming smiles.
As we reflect back on some of The Foundry’s beginnings, we are thankful for people like Sonja who helped launch The Foundry – and as we attempt to persevere through these challenging circumstances, we are thankful for our leaders, teachers, students, donors and prayer warriors and so many others who continue to move us into the future.