The Throggs Neck community and St. Benedict’s Parish is losing an enduring program for children.
The St. Benedict’s Playhouse, a wonderful, facilitated play group and learning program for toddlers run by local educators Bailey Provetto and Therese Cojocaru, will shut its doors after nine years of teaching hundreds of toddlers and getting them ready for school.
Provetto cited a lot of different factors, including the ongoing economic slump that makes even a modest $65 a month for the program tough for families, a decline in enrollment, and complications arising from the regionalization of schools in the New York Archdiocese. All were factors that led to their decision to quit while they were ahead and go out on top, she said.
Father Stephen Norton, the pastor of St. Benedict’s Parish, said that the loss of the playhouse would be shared by the entire parish community, but struck a note of optimism in saying that when God closes one door he opens another.
“Bailey and Therese were looking to retire out, and they tried to see if there would be someone else to take over the program,” said Norton. “But we just didn’t get anyone interested in doing that.”
“It is a loss for us, there is no question about that,” he added. “But trumping that loss is what Bailey and Therese need in their lives and with their families — we are supporting them, and we are grateful for the nine years during which they worked extremely hard.”
Norton said there may not be the same exact program continuing at the church and its school, but he is confident that the parish community will continue to thrive.
A necessary program
The program served over 783 families, who often had several children each, said Provetto. The idea of a facilitated play group was fairly new at the time it was started under Monsignor Edmund Whalen, then-pastor of St. Benedict’s.
“It was a very new type of a idea, it was not ‘a mommy and me,’ program, it was a facilitated play group which is like a pre-school only with the caretakers being there,” she said.
The playhouse was a comprehensive program that offered actual lessons, craft-time, circle-time, and speakers for the mothers and other caretakers involved in the children’s upbringing.
“We were getting the children ready for school,” she said. “Every pre-k and kindergarten teacher knew our kids because they were the ones who knew how to transition, to lineup, and share and care.”
Many similar programs in the area are also struggling and closing, and despite efforts to keep costs down, many local moms in the area couldn’t afford to send their children, she said.
Provetto said that both she and Cojocaru thought and prayed about their difficult decision, and feels that they made the right one.