40 years later, local preschool continues to thrive

A cel­eb­ra­tion: St. James preschool can be found at St. James Luther­an Church in North­wood. The preschool St. James class mo­ment­ar­ily stops dur­ing play­time to pose for a photo. MARIA POUCH­NIKOVA / TIMES PHO­TOS

Forty years ago, a young as­sist­ant pas­tor was look­ing for a preschool in the North­wood area for his son.

The Rev. Paul An­dell and his wife, Pamela, learned that Frank­ford High School’s preschool pro­gram was full and found an­oth­er loc­al op­tion too ex­pens­ive.

So, the An­dells, along with some oth­er church mem­bers, de­cided to es­tab­lish a preschool at St. James Luther­an Church.

“We were look­ing for a place for our four-year-old son in 1973, and it took off from there,” the Rev. An­dell said.

Over the years, An­dell be­lieves the St. James pro­gram has be­come the “Ca­dillac” of preschools. Pamela An­dell once taught at the school.

The An­dells liked the place so much that their four chil­dren at­ten­ded the school. Later, their five grand­chil­dren en­rolled.

For many years, the preschool was filled with chil­dren whose par­ents were pa­rish­ion­ers at St. Mar­tin of Tours. The wait­ing list was so long that some par­ents re­gistered their chil­dren at birth.

Paul An­dell ul­ti­mately be­came pas­tor of the church, loc­ated at 5185 Castor Ave. (at Pratt Street), and served un­til last year. Today, he and his wife live in Min­nesota, and he preaches at a church in Iowa.

“I very much miss the people and the activ­ity of St. James and the North­east,” he said.

This week, he’s back in town for a very spe­cial oc­ca­sion — the 40th an­niversary cel­eb­ra­tion of the preschool.

The party will take place on Sat­urday and Sunday at the church.

“I’m look­ing for­ward to it,” he said. “Com­ing back is a joy.”

The school dir­ect­or is Eva Par­isi, daugh­ter of the An­dells. Her daugh­ter, Ella, is 4 and will be gradu­at­ing this year from the school.

Par­isi and oth­ers have or­gan­ized quite an af­ter­noon of activ­it­ies on Sat­urday. There will be a Moon­bounce, bal­loon art, face paint­ing, mini­ature golf, cot­ton candy and pop­corn ma­chines, a stu­dent art show, dis­plays of old pic­tures, games, prizes and raffle bas­kets.

On Sunday, there will be a 10:30 a.m. church ser­vice, fea­tur­ing singing by the preschool­ers. A re­cep­tion with sand­wiches and cake will fol­low.

Par­isi is hop­ing former stu­dents come back for the week­end.

“We in­vite them to come with their fam­il­ies,” she said.

The cel­eb­ra­tion is also open to cur­rent and former par­ents, teach­ers, board mem­bers and church mem­bers.

Pro­spect­ive stu­dents and their par­ents are wel­come to tour the school, which is open to 2- to 4-year-olds. Half-day and full-day classes are avail­able.

“Please come and cel­eb­rate with us,” Par­isi said.

Par­isi es­tim­ates that more than 1,500 chil­dren have been edu­cated at the school over the years. She cred­its the teach­ers with the long-last­ing suc­cess of the school.

“The staff is very ded­ic­ated to the church and the preschool,” she said. “The classes are small. It’s fam­ily ori­ented.”

The St. James com­munity ex­pects to have a good time.

“Forty is a nice big year to cel­eb­rate,” Par­isi said. “Forty years of people are com­ing back. It’s go­ing to be fun for all ages.”

For more in­form­a­tion, call the church at 215-743-1828 or vis­it the Saint James Chris­ti­an Preschool-Phil­adelphia page on Face­book. ••

Re­port­er Tom War­ing can be reached at 215-354-3034 or twar­ing@bsmphilly.com

You can reach at twaring@bsmphilly.com.

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