MILTON — For decades to come, a maple tree, strong and proud, will remind visitors to Milton Family Community Center of the care provided by longtime Executive Director Vikki Patterson.
On July 1, the staff and board of MFCC organized a tree planting ceremony to thank Patterson and welcome Sophia Donforth, who takes on the directorship this month.
After 19 years leading the organization, Patterson is stepping down to spend more time with her own family. Donforth, a former middle school teacher and advocate for a parent child center in Burlington, will fill her shoes.
Patterson's favorite tree, a maple, was planted Thursday in her honor. Patterson and Donforth took turns covering its roots in fresh mulch, the handing of the shovel similar to the passing of a torch. A bench, bearing a placard with Patterson's name, was also unveiled.
Donforth has been training with Patterson for the last month, and in that time, the two women have gotten to know each other well.
"I've enjoyed spending time together," Patterson said. "I know the center will be left in good hands."
In celebration of MFCC's and Patterson's love for literacy, each child care group presented Patterson with a tree-related picture book. Preschoolers and toddlers walked up one by one to hand over their book and share a hug.
"I look forward to coming here with my granddaughter and reading these books to her under this tree," Patterson said.
MFCC board members thanked Patterson, welcomed Donforth and showed their appreciation for staff during what has been a challenging year.
"You are members of the hardest working profession in the community," Morgen Decker said. "This is complex and rewarding work."
The board recently planted a stone garden near the entrance to MFCC on Villemaire Road. Staff members were asked to request their favorite flowers to be included.
"Every day when you arrive at work, I hope you see the garden and remember that your work is appreciated," Decker said.