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Kids Castle On Endangered List

Jacki DePriest doesn’t want a preschool that makes her life easier.

She’s not looking for time off from her job as a parent or for an escape from her 3-year-old daughter, Elli. But she wants Elli to mingle with other kids her age, learn to share and figure out how to operate in a crowd.

So Jacki enrolled Elli at the non-profit Kids Castle in Coeur d’Alene a year ago.

“I’m not looking for a baby-sitting service,” she says. “I want to be involved and meet new parents.”

Kids Castle requires Jacki to attend school with her daughter once a week. She and her husband, John, periodically clean the classrooms, from pretzel crumbs under the bookshelves to fingerprints on the bathroom faucets. They raise money for the school with rummage sales and raffles.

Jacki couldn’t be happier, which is why she’s desperate to keep the doors open at Kids Castle.

“I feel welcome here,” she says as Elli and a curly-haired friend plop onto Jacki’s lap.

For some reason, cooperative preschools haven’t caught on in Coeur d’Alene as they have in Eastern Washington. Kids Castle has lasted longer than previous attempts. But every year is a struggle, and this year - its seventh - is the worst.

In exchange for low tuitions, parents run the school. Only the teacher is paid. Jacki doesn’t work outside her home and can spend time at Kids Castle. Other parents juggle their work schedules to be there. But not enough parents are willing to make the same commitment. This year, enrollments are low.

“I think we’re in big trouble,” Jacki says.

She doesn’t know how to get the word out to parents that a few hours at preschool with their children is a gift and worth the effort.

Elli already is on the waiting list at another, more costly preschool, in case Kids Castle folds. But parents there leave their children at the door as they do at most preschools.

“I’ll miss seeing what she’s doing,” Jacki says, smoothing her daughter’s blond hair. “I want to know the kids she talks about, who their parents are. I’ll miss the closeness.”

There’s hope

Even the unglamorous jobs get appreciated sometimes. Coeur d’Alene’s Phyllis Bender has kept Panhandle Home Health afloat for nearly 10 years with her careful management of bills, records and books.

She didn’t complain when her workload multiplied by six and no one offered help. She doesn’t back down from insurance companies - for that alone she deserves a hero’s medal.

She’s that competent person who keeps everything running but is rarely noticed. There’s usually one in every office. The Panhandle Health District decided Phyllis deserved more than an occasional nod of approval and last week named her the 1996 Employee of the Year.

Now go find that under-appreciated person in your office and do something nice. It’s probably long overdue.

Good reading

Remember Colleen O’Dowd, the woman who started the magazine Pathways to the Future to help baby boomers learn how to care for their parents? She’s distributing her magazine at Danaan’s Deli in Hayden and at Anchor Property Management and The Mail Room in Coeur d’Alene.

She’s gone computer, too. Call her at 772-7605 for her computer address or to suggest ideas for her publication. She’s always open to ideas.

Tall tales

What’s the most outlandish folk tale you’ve heard about North Idaho? Lake monsters? Sasquatch? Chains of devil worshipers blocking highways? Spin a good yarn for Cynthia Taggart, “Close to Home,” 608 Northwest Blvd., Coeur d’Alene 83814; send a fax to 765-7149; call 765-7128; or e-mail to

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo

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