SEAFORD — A community-based renovation project at the historic Sussex Montessori School has landed a substantial financial boost from the Meoli Companies.
With Mike Meoli and his wife, Kelli Meoli, on hand, a $100,000 check was presented Wednesday, earmarked for landscaping and a barn renovation that will provide wraparound services for not only Montessori students and families but area residents, as well.
“It takes a village, and that is what we are trying to do, bring the village right here and be a support for the whole community,” said head of school Lisa Coldiron.
Mr. Meoli, whose business ventures include 25 McDonald’s locations in Delaware and Maryland, said he’s happy to be involved.
“This is more than an influence. This is fundamentally transforming the opportunity for these kids to be successful in life. And ultimately, when the kids (are successful), when their lives are, so is the community.”
The barn renovation will augment the campus, which has 340 students in grades K-four. It will offer services such as social work, counseling, dental support, various forms of therapy, a food bank and a clothes closet, Ms. Coldiron said. Plans also include a library, two classrooms and a community-type room.
The school estimates that 24% of Sussex Montessori students will benefit from these additional initiatives — “anything and everything that our families may need to help support them, so that the children and families can focus on education and being a family,” said Ms. Coldiron.
In total, the project has an estimated $3 million cost.
Sussex Montessori plans to add fifth grade in 2022-23 and become K-six the following year. There is a waiting list of close to 200, Ms. Coldiron said.
A portion of the Meolis’ donation will go toward landscaping. “Everything about this project says excellence, in terms of education, the people that are involved, and we want the landscaping on the outside, your first impression, to say the same thing,” said Mr. Meoli.
Students presented the contributors with a basket of thank-you notes.
“The children are beyond excited about what you brought to us,” Ms. Coldiron said. “You will be tickled to read the notes that they have written. They understand what you have done and the sacrifice that you made for us. From the bottom of our hearts, we are forever grateful. As you watch this school grow, you’ll see what your investment has brought.”
Rep. Danny Short, R-Seaford, said the partnership between the Meoli family and Sussex Montessori School “sends a strong message that we’ve got a good thing going on in Seaford, and we’re making a turn for the better to revitalize our community, (which) was once one of the biggest economic drivers in the county, if not the state."
“Your endorsement of this, Mike and Kelli, means a whole lot to me,” he added.
Mr. Meoli noted Seaford’s past and its promising future.
“When I look at the rich history of Seaford, if there is any way I can be part of whatever revitalization and renaissance is happening, I want to be part of it,” he said. “Sometimes, it takes a big check to start the process. And that’s fine. This very much aligns (with) the way Kelli and I feel, that we have a responsibility that we should be doing individually. And it also aligns with McDonald’s, with (its) philosophy in giving back to the community.”