Preschool education was a relatively foreign concept when the First Community Church launched the Children’s Center in 1952.

Today, preschools are commonplace, and the Children’s Center, which is celebrating its 45th anniversary this year, continues to teach basic educational and social skills to neighborhood children ages 2-5.

“The church started the school to provide a school of excellence for the young children of this community,” says Children’s Center director Ouida Johnson, who has been with the school 41 years.

“Our goal is to create a happy and loving environment where young children can learn to make decisions.”

Johnson joined the staff at the Children’s Center when her daughter, Janis – who is now the school’s computer instructor – was a student there in 1956. She has been a fixture ever since, replacing Carol Jones as director in 1971.

A 45th anniversary celebration is scheduled Dec. 6 at the home of neighborhood residents Matthew and Lori Trent. Anyone who has ever been involved with the school (parents, teachers and students) is welcome to attend. The celebration – a family Christmas party – will feature a party tent with games and prizes for children. Adults can participate in a silent auction to benefit the Children’s Center.

“The people there are so dedicated and never toot their own horn,” Trent says. “They do a lot for the Lakewood and Lake Highlands communities.”

“For a preschool, it’s amazing.”

For more information about the anniversary party, call the Children’s Center at 214-823-2119.