For the last 83 years, the legacy nonprofit Mercer Island Preschool Association (MIPA) has been supporting families with children ages 0-6.
With presidents Lesley Malakoti and Laura Schaps at the helm, this might be the most crucial year yet for the all-volunteer parent-teacher association.
“We’ve just said to the board, this is an organization that is needed now more than ever because it has gotten exponentially harder for parents of young children to find and build a community,” said Malakoti, who has a 16-month-old who participates in MIPA activities.
The duo has met with the association’s board about how to keep fostering a community amongst MIPA families in COVID-19 times, and the excitement and energy levels and ideas coming forth from the group have blown Malakoti away. With new times, come new options on how to bring families together.
Schaps, who has a 3-and-a-half-year-old joining her at MIPA, said that virtual meetings with guest speakers, social-distancing or virtual play groups and maybe a parent support group are a few ideas on the table for now. MIPA’s board hasn’t yet decided how to possibly run its signature events like Toy Swap and Preschool Fair — maybe on a virtual platform — and a Circus discussion won’t happen until January. A Halloween activity is also on their minds, and that will be a subject of upcoming meetings.
What is happening this fall is Pop-Up Story Walk, which will take place Sept. 26-Oct. 17 in Luther Burbank Park. The event — which is made possible with a generous grant from the Mercer Island Community Fund — will begin and end at the South Parking Lot, located at the intersection of Southeast 26th Street and 84th Avenue Southeast. While strolling through the park, people can read “Tiny, Perfect Things” by M.H. Clark by following the signs to the next “page” of the story.
MIPA, which is the only PTA for preschool-age kids and babies in Washington state and one of two in the nation, offers a preschool scholarship through Mercer Island Youth & Family Services and makes significant donations to major Mercer Island playground renovations.
“The importance of the organization to me personally is just really bringing our community together and finding other people that are interested and involved in the community with kids the same age,” said Schaps, who also has children 10 and 14 years old who went through MIPA. “It’s just a really good way for you to come together and really share ideas and get, not only your kiddos some friends, but also to share those common grounds with other parents.”
When Schaps moved to the Island in 2011, she found her way to MIPA and felt included in its community from the outset. From volunteer to leader, it’s been a rewarding experience the whole way, she said. Her husband grew up on the Island and remembers attending the Circus event, so it’s a full-circle scenario.
Malakoti moved to the area three years ago and brought her then-4-year-old into the MIPA fold. She and her children have made vital connections with families through MIPA.
“I feel like I know and understand Mercer Island much better than I would if I had never gotten involved with MIPA,” she said.
For more information about MIPA, visit mipreschoolassociation.org.