Congregational Treasure. Dec. 2, 2019. To someone on the outside, it can seem as if the rich world of family programming at UUCF happens by magic. Every week, children and youth enter the Program Building and are greeted by teachers who are ready with active, engaging lessons. Family-friendly events appear in every weekly newsletter. It may look like this is simply what happens at UUCF. It has always been this way and it will keep being this way into the future.
Of course, anyone on the inside understands that it’s the dedication and passion of leaders who show up, every week, every season, year after year that create the magical place where UUCF families thrive.
Suzanne Leonard is one of the people making the whole system move so successfully. She has taught Religious Exploration classes for many years, bringing her joy and skills to the classroom and building a welcoming community for the children. She served as chair of the RE Committee where her warmth, energy and creativity inspired RE volunteer teachers across all levels of programming. She continues to support the RE program whenever asked, by leading sessions at teacher training and running team-building activities for new RE Committee members.
Suzanne’s generous spirit creates an atmosphere of welcome and inspires others to the service of teaching. Her light touch puts others at ease and lets newer volunteers and parents know that they are among friends as they find their footing. By engaging with warmth and enthusiasm, she demonstrates that volunteering in the RE program can be as fun and nourishing for the volunteers as it is for the students. You may have seen her this fall, monitoring the bounce house at Ingathering or supervising the face painting at the Fall Festival. Suzanne’s willingness to volunteer in tasks large or small is an example to us all.
One of the larger tasks she has done, which continues to impact children at UUCF, was her collaboration on the creation of the “Hello Friends” RE curriculum for 2- and 3-year-olds. Suzanne assisted Pam McKeta in developing many of the activities in this 30-lesson curriculum. Suzanne’s expertise in early childhood development has resulted in a welcoming preschool environment at UUCF that continues to bring families with young children through our doors year after year.
Suzanne also recognizes that our youngest participants are more than RE students. They are fellow congregants and future members. Suzanne has worked hard over the years to make UUCF a welcoming place for families with young children. She has helped build connections among UUCF families by participating in the monthly RE family potlucks, the toddler PlaygroUUp and the annual all-congregation retreats at Big Meadows.
Her commitment to congregational engagement shows up well beyond the Program Building. She co-chaired the annual Auction for 2 years as well as the Chili Cook-off. These events not only provide fun and fellowship for our members of all ages, they also help raise money and open UUCF’s doors to the wider community. She has also designed logos and volunteer T-shirts for nearly every Auction in recent memory, and has offered her design talents generously to other UUCF programs, including the Annual Giving Campaign and Paris Pledge Initiative.
UUCF’s abundant family offerings may not happen by magic alone, but magic is still key. Suzanne Leonard is one of the wizards behind the curtain – showing up for our children, building connections among families and congregants of all generations, bringing her creative spirit to programming and curriculum. Our young people flourish in Suzanne’s care. By helping make UUCF a spiritual home for our children and families, Suzanne keeps our congregation’s future bright.
by Shannon Williams and Diana Tycer