Foundry Christian Community Center
Susan McCloud Executive Director
Story by Emily Robertson
Prior to 2015, 74% of children that lived in the west end area of Bowling Green tested as unprepared for kindergarten, and the Methodist churches in the area decided to do something to try and change that statistic.
Now, Foundry Christian Community Center impacts more than 75 children in preschool and after-school programs and helps steer their whole families into a successful path for their future. And last year, 95 percent of the graduating preschool class tested as ready
Foundry Christian Community Center Executive Director, Susan McCloud, says that her part of leading the organization, after a life-long career in public education, is both a labor of love and a learning experience for her.
What is the history of The Foundry?
In 2009, the South Central district in the Methodist church started to seek God’s guidance in what they could do in our community. The west end of Bowling Green is definitely underserved in terms of services. There are no banks, no dry cleaners, and no grocery stores, except for convenience stores.
As they began to seek and pray for God’s guidance, this facility, at 531 West 11th Avenue, that we are currently in came available and they purchased it in 2009. It became the Foundry Christian Community Center.
The area we are in allows us to serve a 3.4 mile radius of the most impoverished area of Bowling Green. Through lots of study, prayer and research it just kept coming up that education would be the way to change this community. We decided that if we did a preschool and impacted children when they were really young, then stay with them through school, we could have an influence on their lives.
What do families need to do to be a part of the program?
The preschool program is a $3,500 per year value, but it is completely free for the families if parents are working, in a work-training program or if they are attending school.
The parent-involvement is a key piece and parents are required to come to parent involvement classes in order to be eligible for the free tuition. During the program, we do a program with the parents called “Raising Resilient Kids” that focuses on 40 assets that every family needs in order to be successful.
As they come to the classes, we get to know them and we get to know their lives inside and out. We aren’t just involved with the children in the program, we are involved with the whole circle around the children. We work to have the community on our side and we have a partnership that is going on. We have people whose lives are beginning to change.
How many children are involved at the Foundry?
When we first began, we served about 15 children through the preschool, now we have 52, so we have more than tripled our student population in our preschool. We also added an after-school program, so 25 students participate everyday 3 pm to 5 p.m.
We also provide a camp program during the summer months when school is not in session.
Why is the Foundry such an asset to the community of Bowling Green?
We get children as soon as they turn 3 years old. A lot of the families we serve don’t qualify to attend public preschool or don’t have access to the preschool in this part of town, so to have access to this program is invaluable.
How many staff and volunteers help to make the Foundry possible? Who would make a great volunteer for the Foundry?
We have more than 300 volunteers and 12 staff members.
When people have the chance to come in and see what we are doing, they are really surprised and excited. Volunteerism is about ministry. Not only does it minister to the people living in the west end of Bowling Green, but it ministers to the people who are volunteering. We would love to have anyone who is open to helping children and willing to work however they are most needed.
Some of the ways people serve at the Foundry is preparing meals on parent nights or watching children so that the moms can have quiet times to do their lessons. One area we need people in right now is help at meal times. The teachers don’t often get good breaks and we would love to have more people to help with meal times at lunch and also breakfast. Also, in many volunteer areas throughout the Foundry, volunteers are able to bring their children with them to assist and play.
If a church group from any church in Bowling Green would be interested in volunteering, we have lots of events throughout the year that a group can work to put on, such as our yearly family Valentine’s Dance in February. We have lots of instructions and details to give volunteers, we just don’t have the manpower to get the event put together.
What are your main sources of funding?
We get our funding through private donors, the United Way, a grant from the Kentucky Department of Education, and local United Methodist churches.
What are your fundraising events that take place throughout the year?
We have our Gratitude Breakfast each December where our volunteers and donors come and share the stories about what drew them to the Foundry.
We also do a scholarship drive where individuals or groups can adopt a child to help cover the cost for their tuition in the school or help make sure they are covered for birthdays and holidays.
Tell us a bit about yourself. How did you become involved in The Foundry?
I’ve been here for three years. I retired from public schools in the fall of 2014. I thought I was leaving and going to my house to drink coffee and enjoy my retired life. I spent 34 years in public schooling and I was tired, but I began to pray and I knew I didn’t want to just quit. I still wanted to make a difference.
I have a deep-seeded faith and I just believe that God’s call is upon my life. If this is where He wants me to be, I’ll be here until I’m finished. I came in here thinking I knew what needed to be done here, but I didn’t. I have learned as many life lessons as these kiddos have.
Is there anything new coming up for The Foundry in the next year?
We are revamping our summer camp. One of our desires is to take our kids to church camp. In the past, they have come to the Foundry everyday, but we would like to take them to a big church camp. That is going to take people sponsoring them to get there. Most of our children have never been able to go anywhere outside of town, but we would love to teach them how to serve and give back what has been given to them.
Is there anything else you want people to know about The Foundry?
It is a safe-haven for this community. We want our families to be able to come and be treated with dignity and respect. But more than that, we want people to know that no matter what they have going on in their life, God is able.