Salvation Army pre-school celebrates 50 years

published on 5 Jul 2023

A Salvation Army pre-school in Leigh-on-Sea marked its 50th anniversary with a weekend of celebrations.

Smiley Centre For Children, known locally as Smiley’s, is based at the church and charity at Glendale Gardens and is the oldest pre-school run by The Salvation Army in the country.

Families, staff members and volunteers, who were involved in Smiley’s from the start joined with current staff, families and local Salvation Army leaders for a summer fayre to celebrate and to raise vital funds for the school.  A celebration service was held the following day, led by Andrea Stevens, The Salvation Army’s Early Years Operations Manager and Debbie Charles, Territorial Community Engagement Lead.

During the ceremony, thanks were given to all those who had been involved since the pre-school opened in 1973. Margaret Parkhill, who set up and led the school in 1973, and current leader Lauren Clay were given commemorative framed photos to recognise their contribution to Smiley’s.

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Church leaders, current Smiley staff and Anna Firth, MP for Southend West, celebrate the pre-school turning 50.

Commissioner Anthony Cotterill, UK leader of The Salvation Army, prepared letters of thanks for church leaders and individual members of staff which were also presented on the day.

Andrea said she was delighted to attend and lead the service. She praised all involved with Smiley’s.

Andrea commented: “Children and families are welcomed into the bright sunny building and children start their learning journey through play. Children flourish in this safe and happy environment and they and their families are part of the church family from the day that they sign up.”

Captain Robert Davis and Captain Clare Davis lead The Salvation Army in Leigh-on-Sea.

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Margaret Parkhill, the founder of Smileys, and Lauren Clay, current manager, received a special anniversary gift to mark the occasion.

Robert praised Smiley’s and said the link between the pre-school and the church is vital.

He said: “We are a community – we provide pastoral care, food parcels and a listening ear and we have had some families come to the pre-school through some of the other services we provide. It’s amazing how its stood the test of time. We’re proud of every person that has helped Smiley’s grow over the years and for the excellent reputation this pre-school has in the local community.”

Smiley’s pre-school is open to children from the age of two-and-a-half to four-and-a-half years old and provides government funded places. For more information, contact 01702 478092

A Salvation Army volunteer brings an elderly gentleman a care package.

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