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By DAVID PEPIN
Happy hearts, happy alumni, happy teachers.
They added up to plenty of smiles Saturday morning at the 25th anniversary celebration of Happy Hearts Learning Center, 2608 South County Trail, as the preschoolâ€™s current crop of pupils ages 2 to 5 mixed with their older predecessors, including a few young adults, and past and present faculty members.
â€śWe never thought it would be this big,â€ť said Pamela Noble, who has literally seen it all as the schoolâ€™s founding co-owner and co-director, first with co-founder Maureen Lodge, and now with current partner Ann Millard.
From its humble beginnings at Our Lady of Mercy School, Happy Hearts now encompasses more than 150 students, along with 26 teachers.
After a year and a half of operation at OLM, beginning with just 20 kids and three teachers, the school quickly grew until it needed more space and made arrangements with the town to lease its current two-building property near Frenchtown Road.
â€śBack then, there were very few pre-schools around, not like today. It was great to see us grow, and right now we use every inch of our space,â€ť Noble says.
â€śWe were a Ma and Pa Kettle operation, and had morning, then afternoon, classes,â€ť said Lodge, recalling the challenge of pulling off the move during the holidays in time to resume operations at the current location in January.
In addition to East Greenwich, said Noble, students come from North Kingstown, Coventry and the Cowesett section of Warwick, and occasionally farther.
â€śWeâ€™ve had not just the kids, but the parents form great relationships from different parts of the state. Some of them have even gone on vacations together,:â€ť Lodge said.
The teachers are generally mothers who children attend the school, then stay around as the kids grow.
â€śTheir kids left, but they didnâ€™t,â€ť Lodge said.