Richmond Hill Montessori Preschool received the 2015 Business of the Year Award at the Richmond Hill/Bryan County Chamber of Commerce annual meeting and dinner banquet at the Richmond Hill City Center.
The Chamber honor is the latest in a run of awards school founder and owner Audrey Singleton has received in recent years.
In 2014, she received the Georgia Child Care Association’s Industry Service and Recognition Award. Last year, she was the recipient of the Georgia Association on Young Children’s Fan Brooke Award.
During her acceptance speech at the Jan. 21 banquet, Singleton said that as she looked out over the audience, “Many of your children were part of my children.”
“I have had a phenomenal opportunity to reach two generations of kids at this point, and I’m not stopping,” she said.
Al Dixon and Alex Tucker of Richmond Hill Pharmacy, the 2014 Business of the Year, announced the award winner.
“This person has touched so many different lives, so many different generations. She’s taught us a lot about this community, and this person will continue to teach this community for many generations to come,” Dixon said.
Montessori Preschool opened in 1995 in with 35 students. Enrollment has grown to more than 160 students, and the school moved into a 20,000-square-foot facility in 2013.
In an interview after the banquet, Singleton said she was surprised to receive the award and praised the Richmond Hill community for being tight-knit.
“Everybody knows each other and everybody speaks to each other and takes a part in the overall aspect of how we want our community to look, how we want our businesses to be, how we want our families and children who live here to be taken care of and how we want them to portray themselves and to portray the community,” she said.
One of the strengths of the preschool, Singleton said, is its ability to work with children of the military community who stay for a few years. The bonds developed in that time stay with all parties after the children move away.
“When they come to visit a neighbor or friend or family member who lives here, they come by the preschool,” she said.
Singleton’s vision for the school includes being a training site. Already, Montessori Preschool is collaborating with Georgia Southern University and Ogeechee, Southeast and Savannah technical colleges, taking in early education majors and letting them have hands-on experience.
“It’s a wonderful way for them to see what age group they’re passionate about and work in all of the classrooms and administrative sides,” she said.
Also Jan. 21, Angus McCleod received the DeVaul Henderson Community Service Award, and Naomi Havens was named the 2015 Ambassador of the Year.