As with most education
programs in this difficult COVID-19 season, last summer’s
CDF program had to be altered to fit the realities of the
pandemic. The program was offered virtually to a reduced
number of students – but that it was offered at all is a
tribute to the previous success of the program and the
encouragement parents offered to keep it on track, said
The K-8 grade program
normally brings in 60 students for the Integrated Reading
Curriculum during the morning and the art, theater, music
and dance activities in the afternoons.
The Integrated Reading
Curriculum provides students an opportunity to bridge some
reading gaps. In addition, CDF offers STEMM (science,
technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine) skills
for the young participants. Additionally, amongst all those
activities , the youngsters are provided breakfast, lunch
and a snack.
The MSNC’s Freedom School was the brainchild of Gloria
Layson, a member of the Braden United Methodist Church, who
approached Rev. Larry Clark, pastor of Monroe Street United
Methodist Church (which houses the MSNC) with the concept.
Then Petty came into the picture and a partnership was
formed with the church, the MSNC and the Maumee Watershed
District – the region’s 25 Methodist churches.
“A church can’t be a Freedom School,” said Petty who became
the program’s administrator. “It needs to be a 501(c)(3) so
Pastor Clark came to us and said we should do it.”
Money needed to be raised, of course. The Center had to come
up with $65,000 to cover the Freedom School expenses such as
training, staffing and testing. The partnership of the 25
churches in the Maumee Watershed District, the Monroe Street
church and the Center and a grant from the Toledo Rotary
Foundation resulted in a successful initial fundraising
“We could not have done Freedom School without the support
of the 25 Methodist churches of the Maumee Watershed
District that poured financial and spiritual help into the
school,” said Petty.
Individuals like Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson and former
University of Toledo men’s basketball coach Stan Joplin were
part of the group of guest readers who volunteered their
Washington set about mastering the Freedom School curriculum
and put in about 250 hours prior to the opening of the
summer session – without pay – researching, organizing and
training “because she really believed in the program,” said
Petty. “You have to have a commitment in order to give away
that amount of time.”
Student Leader Interns (SLI) – teachers – were also brought
on board prior to the summer opening to undergo training to
master the Freedom School concepts and curriculum.
The Freedom School
enhanced an already rich variety of programs and services
offered by MSNC pre-pandemic. That list includes the Savvy
Senior Wellness Program; The Bridge (providing emergency
food, clothing and transportation); Dress Right for Men and
Women (providing professional clothing for those entering
the job market); Documents Matter (assistance with securing
a birth certificate or state ID) along with assorted
wellness programs for seniors as Zumba Gold, Tai-Chi, cardio
dance and a walking class.
These days, much of the
efforts of the staff at the Center are to keep providing
food to so many who have had financial difficulties during
the pandemic. The Food Pantry, which is open on Tuesdays
from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., used to serve from 50 to 55 people
now needs to serve between 100 and 125.
“We are getting calls from
all over,” says Petty about the growing need for food. The
Pantry obtains a good portion of its food from the SeaGate
Center and the Northwest Ohio Food Bank. Extra funds have
had to be raised to purchase additional items from the Food
All of these activities
are carried out by a small staff – only three paid staff –
and lots of volunteers.
Petty is a University of
Toledo alumna with a master’s degree in Public
Administration and is also a licensed social worker. She
began her career in social services over 35 years ago and
has worked at various agencies in Toledo and Cleveland,
including a position as program director at the Caldwell
Center before she moved over to MSNC.
Now, as is the case with
so many people in Toledo and around the nation, Petty is
recovering from her own bout with COVD-19 – a bout so bad,
she says, that she was sometimes afraid to go to sleep
fearing she would not wake up again.
She was hit with the virus
right after Thanksgiving and is still recovering from it,
gradually building her strength to pre-disease levels.
Being named an honoree for
the Milestones’ Education Award could not have come at a
This year’s event will be
held virtually on March 26 at 11:30 a.m.