Preschool Association is ‘Citizen of the Year’

Present and past presidents of the Mercer Island Preschool Association who accepted the award on behalf of the organization are, from left, Sarah LeClercq, Erin Sirianni, Cara Perla and Kim Thomas. - Contributed Photo
Present and past presidents of the Mercer Island Preschool Association who accepted the award on behalf of the organization are, from left, Sarah LeClercq, Erin Sirianni, Cara Perla and Kim Thomas.
— image credit: Contributed Photo

The Mercer Island Preschool Association, often referred to as the cradle of community activism for the Island, has been named the 2014 Citizen of the Year.

The City Council has been recognizing the outstanding efforts of citizens since 1990. Honorees are individuals or entities who have improved Island life through a broad base of community service.

Mayor Bruce Bassett spoke about the selection of the Mercer Island Preschool Association at the July 7, City Council meeting.

“In October of 2013, the City had the privilege of opening a very special playground which celebrates the importance of play, a playground which celebrates children of all physical abilities, a playground that encourages exploration and self-challenge,” he said, referring to the newly renovated Luther Burbank playground. Calling it a unique and special place, Bassett noted that the playground was recently honored for its inclusiveness by the Washington Recreation and Park Association.

Bassett said that the work by the group on the playground is just “one recent  and notable example of this organization’s deep commitment to youth through a community partnership which has benefited the Island for over 80 years.”

Typically referred to as MIPA, the Mercer Island Preschool Association was one of the first community groups to organize on the Island. Founded in the 1920s, it has been referred to by City Councilmember Jane Meyer Brahm as “the matriarch of kid-centric organizations.”

As a group of volunteers, its guiding principle is an unswerving commitment to the education and well-being of children from birth through kindergarten, the mayor said. Further to its community-building charter, MIPA sponsors many annual events including the Preschool Fair, Halloween Party and the much anticipated Toy Swap. And every dollar raised from each event is re-invested back into the community.

Next year, MIPA will celebrate the 50th anniversary of “Circus,” known to many Island residents as “Circus McGurkus.”  The event is held in partnership with local and regional sponsors, bringing families together for a day of fun.

“MIPA has demonstrated an enduring commitment to our parks and the power of play,” Bassett continued. “In 1962, MIPA was a force behind the establishment of Deane’s Children’s Park; later sponsoring much of the renovation there, now known as the “castle.”  In 2000, the “Train Park” at Mercerdale Park opened, thanks to the joint efforts of MIPA and the city.  The Adventure Playground at Deane’s was supported by MIPA in 2010; it has since won a state spotlight award and national recognition as one of just four such creative and inspirational playgrounds in the country.  And most recently, MIPA provided design assistance and almost $100,000 in donations toward the renovation of the Luther Burbank playground.

“MIPA has been a tremendous contributor to the sense of community we Islanders enjoy,” Bassett said. “It is an exceptional organization made up of exceptional people committed to making a difference.”

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