After nearly 41 years with the agency, JCPRD Children’s Services Manager Kim Chappelow-Lee is retiring effective Dec. 13.
“JCPRD is losing a gem when Kim Chappelow-Lee retires,” said long-time children’s services staff member Jennifer Anderson, who took over as Children’s Services Manager on Nov. 3. “She has provided leadership and guidance over the years, and mentored all of us as we took on new projects and new roles within children’s services.”
“Kim has been a strong leader for our Children’s Services Department, growing it from one small program to the amazing success it is today, greatly benefitting the families in our community,” added Superintendent of Recreation Rhonda Pollard. “I cannot tell you how appreciative I am of her setting a standard of excellence and steadfastly ensuring that our programs are safe, educational, and fun! Kim has represented JCPRD well over the last many decades, and her legacy is one to be proud of.”
Chappelow-Lee first came to JCPRD in January 1978 through a federal grant that provided for staffing costs associated with starting recreational programs for individuals with special needs. During that first year, she wore many hats, planning and leading afternoon, evening, and Saturday classes and trips for special populations, directing a special needs camp during the summer, and teaching JCPRD’s weekday preschool program.
It wasn’t long before the district started getting more involved in early education for preschoolers by adding new locations at existing community centers throughout the county. In the early 80’s, Johnson County moms were rapidly entering the full-time workforce, in the process creating opportunities to expand services into the area of before- and afterschool programming for school-age children.
“We were one of the first park and recreation agencies in the country to offer afterschool care and one of the first nationally to be heavily involved in childcare,” Chappelow-Lee said. “We are true industry pioneers and continue to be ahead of the curve in the provision of these services in the recreation field.”
Children’s services offerings grew quickly enough that Chappelow-Lee soon stopped teaching preschool and became manager of this new program area which eventually became its own department within JCPRD’s Recreation Division.
This growth was fueled by social change and has resulted in providing before- and after-school services at 66 schools in the Shawnee Mission, De Soto, Gardner, and Olathe school districts. Special Olympics and special recreation activities continue to flourish, early education programs operate at three locations throughout the county, and an entirely new full-immersion nature preschool has been introduced to address nature deficit in young children. A staff of 76 full- and part-time partial plus employees and over 300 seasonal employees are devoted to providing services to the approximate 2,000 children who attend the programs every working day of the year.
“When I started here, the entire rec staff was smaller than my department is now,” Chappelow-Lee notes. “I’ve spent most of my adult life with parks and rec. I feel like I’ve grown up here.”
So what’s kept her with the district for so long?
“This is a really terrific place to work,” Chappelow-Lee said. “I’m the kind of person who needs a lot of variety. The recreation industry is trends-based, so this workplace with its ever-changing and exciting opportunities suits me perfectly. I have also been blessed with the opportunity to work with some of the most talented, energetic, and innovative people around.”
And what does Chappelow-Lee see as her biggest accomplishment while at JCPRD?
“I’ve kept pace with the continual change and best practices in the field of early education and enrichment, and have worked hard to respond to the evolving needs of our consumer,” she said. “JCPRD seems to always be in a rapid growth mode. Keeping pace with growth demands and maintaining high-quality programs and services can be challenging, but I think myself and the entire JCPRD team has been highly successful in this regard.”