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Gan Ami Mequon Continues to Grow

By JCC Milwaukee June 21, 2023

Gan Ami Mequon Continues to Grow

The JCC has been operating an early childhood program in Mequon for over three decades, but for most of that time, they operated as tenants, first in a synagogue on Mequon Road and later in the “little red school” on Donges Bay Road. Five years ago, Gan Ami Early Childhood Education found its permanent home at the Linda and Fred Wein Family Center on Port Washington Road, thanks to a generous investment made by Linda and Fred Wein.

Our faculty and families were thrilled to finally have a dedicated space for school, but it didn’t take long for all the classrooms to have waitlists. Parents were calling frequently to inquire about available spots, especially for infants, but the classrooms were already at full capacity. One day, Fred Wein suggested to Mark Shapiro, the JCC President and Chief Executive Officer, that they should go out for lunch. Over a couple of tuna sandwiches, Fred and Linda expressed their desire to create a larger indoor space where children could run, jump, roll, and tumble. As plans took shape, they also saw opportunities to add an additional infant room and more practical teacher resource room. As an additional aspect of the project, David and Kathy Wyatt sponsored the installation of a 28.8-kilowatt solar array on the roof, estimated to fulfill 73% of Gan Ami Mequon’s electricity needs while also teaching the children about sustainable energy sources.

Construction on the expansion of Gan Ami Mequon began in August 2022, and both the faculty and families were excited for the changes. The children were fascinated by the construction process, observing and imitating the construction process from the safety of their playground on the other side of the fence. Teachers encouraged children to explore and understand the activities happening around them, and added sound machines and other tools to ensure naptime went off without a hitch.

Towards the end of 2022, when the building construction was complete, a whole classroom of infants was taken off the waitlist, and they joined the school in January. The older students were amazed by the new multipurpose room, named the Yachad Room (meaning “together” in Hebrew).

Karen Faust, the Site Director of Gan Ami Mequon, explained, “This space was intentionally designed to facilitate proprioceptive activities and vestibular stimulation, which are both powerful tools for self-soothing and focusing attention.”

The growth of Gan Ami Mequon is largely attributed to our exceptional educators, dedicated to the growth and development of all the children. The support and love shown by Gan Ami families within the community have also played a significant role. However, none of this would have been possible without the unwavering dedication and support of Linda and Fred Wein, who have been with our school every step of the way. Since the opening of the Linda and Fred Wein Center for Gan Ami Early Childhood Education in Mequon, they have been regular visitors, participating in holiday celebrations and other special events. The JCC is immensely grateful for their vision and generosity, which have made all this possible.

Special thanks also goes to our new neighbors, Jon and Jill Zimmerman of Jilly’s Car Wash, who allowed access to the construction site through their property, minimizing the impact on the playgrounds and parking lot. Additionally, we’d like to express our gratitude to Fred Steir and Steir Construction who have consistently answered the call when our mission calls us to create new and improved spaces for our community.

Click here to read more stories of impact from the 2022-23 Annual Report.