Monday, December 6, 2021

Time for Tulsa

Pam Filbin Retires After 23 years

Photos by Scott H. Shook
| Pam Filbin said she will miss her daily interactions with the children.


It’s rare these days to hear of a person committing themselves to one job for 20 years or more. But over at Wesley United Methodist Church, Pam Filbin has served as director of the Mother’s Morning Out program for 23 years. “We’re just getting ready for the new girl taking over,” Pam Filbin said from her office overlooking the playground at the church.

Photos by Scott H. Shook
| Pam Filbin with artwork she did for the Mother’s Morning Out program early in her career.

Filbin is dealing with a lot of emotions and memories as her career winds down to its final 30 days. Last July she lost the love of her life when her husband Tim passed away suddenly after undergoing a quadruple bypass surgery. She is buoyed by the fact that she knows she’s leaving the program she refers to as her “baby” in good hands. “I got to pick my replacement,” Filbin said with pride. Filbin goes on like a proud mother when talking about Claire Orgass, 24, who will take the reins officially at the end of the month.

“Claire was two years old when I came here,” Filbin said. “Her mother actually worked as a teacher here for a while. So, when her mother was here, she got to come through the summers when school was out. She volunteered through the years as she was growing up. She has been a teacher here for three years. Her three-year-old son is in the program. I’ve known her forever. Been associated with her family. I am thrilled to death. It’s been so nice because it will be a real smooth transition. She and I kind of see eye to eye on a lot of things in the teaching scenario. How things should be done here. Like I told her, for a while, you’ll do things Pam’s way, but soon you’ll do it Claire’s way. That’s going to be the fun of it. Bottom line is I’m getting old, and she’s young. She’s 24. That’s the age I was when I started in childcare. I’m 61. I’ve been here for 23 years. I came from Oklahoma. I started out in a hospital childcare center.”

Filbin holds a bachelor’s degree in family relations and a master’s degree in child development from Oklahoma State. She plans to return to her native Tulsa after leaving the Mother’s Morning Out program. It’s clear that Filbin will leave a piece of her heart behind. Like many young people moving to the island, Filbin thought it would be a temporary move. “I thought, ‘This is a good place to come for a couple of years,’” she laughed. “I thought I would just come here for two or three years. I ended up meeting my husband here. I met and married him. Have been here ever since. Of course, I’d always had a full-time job, and this was a part-time position. But I started this and then started doing artwork.”

“This program had only been around for four or five years,” Filbin continues. “I was the third director that came on. It started out pretty much as a play group. It was a mother’s morning out program—it was a break for mothers. That’s what it was called. It was started by a pastor’s wife. Of course, my background was in childcare.”

It would be an understatement to say that Filbin loved her job. “It was a great thing for me,” she said. “We kept it part-time. Because that’s just the beauty of this program. The majority of our teachers have been parents. They’ve had a vested interest in this program.” Filbin said the program’s part-time status is one of the keys to its success. “Because we’re part-time,” she said, “we usually have one parent who doesn’t work, or works part-time. So, they don’t send their children when they’re sick. And that’s huge. And you understand when they are in a full-time program, and they are working full time, parents have no other outlet. You understand why they send their children sick. Our parents don’t. Our parents, because they have more time at home with their kids, they have more time to spend with their kids. Our teachers are also parents. It makes our program more of a family atmosphere, and we’ve been able to maintain that throughout the years. We’ve always been lucky.”

Submitted Photos
| Claire Orgass will go from former student to director of Mother’s Morning Out.

Filbin loves the children she has nurtured over the years. She enjoys seeing their success. “It’s been nice for me through the years to see the kids who have come through this program grow up and see where they go,” she said. “We’ve had kids who have gone on to get their Ph.D., we’ve had kids who have gone on to the military. One of them is in the Space Force now. Just grown up and gone on and have their own families. It’s hard to believe I’ve been here that long. We live in a bubble here. The kids come through, the families come through, but we still stay the same.”

Filbin had talked with her husband about what she would do if something happened to him. She feels like she is following the advice he had given her. “It’s hard to leave Marco,” she reflects. “And after doing this for 30-plus years, I’ll miss the kids. I…will…miss…the…kids. I’ve always said I’ve got the best of both worlds. Having the administrative side and having the kids. If I get tired of the administrative side I can go in and play with the kids. But I didn’t have to be with the kids all of the time. I could do both. That part of it’s going to be really tough. But it’s time to move on.”

She said she’s had “just millions” of fun memories from the Mother’s Morning Out program. But it’s the everyday interaction with the children that she will miss the most. “Just the everyday, being with the kids,” she mused. “I’ve always said I’ve regretted never writing a book. Out of the mouth of babes. The unconditional love. A little four-year-old I was having a conversation with the other day told me, ‘When I was your age.’ I said, ‘What?’ He was totally serious the whole time. I have a little girl that comes in every morning and checks out what shoes I’m wearing. I have another girl who comes in and checks out what color my fingernail polish is. These kids are two and three years old. You think they don’t notice things, but they do. The stories. If I had just written some of these things down…it would have been a bestseller.”

Some of Filbin’s favorite days were when they would have parties or parades with the kids. “I love the party days here,” she said. “Every time we had a party the parents were involved. We would invite parents. The parents would provide the food. We would have these big buffets and have the families all come. It was like a big deal for the kids to have a party. I miss that. That’s another thing that we could do here is have family involvement. That was always a big deal. Parades. The kids love a parade. For us a parade, literally, we walk out to Barfield and back. We find some reason to have a parade. Next month we are having a teddy bear parade. Everybody will be bringing a teddy bear to school, or their favorite stuffed animal. And we will have a teddy bear parade. Anything to have a party or a parade.” 

Submitted Photos
| Pam Filbin today.

Of course, it hasn’t been all smooth sailing for the past 23 years. “We’ve had our share of ups and downs,” Filbin said, “as members change and pastors change. I’ve been through five pastors since I’ve been here. That part of it changes and everybody has different ideas. You just have to adapt with it and go with the flow. But the bottom line is that my values and my beliefs never changed. There were times I would kind of waiver, thinking, ‘maybe we should adapt a little bit more this way.’ I would still come back. saying, ‘No. I know what’s best for these kids.’ And the bottom line is this. Through the years I’ve always been told that kids who come out of this program always tested in the higher groups when they entered Tommie Barfield. And I know that over at the voluntary pre-kindergarten (VPK) they always love to get kids from our program.”

Filbin has no doubt that Orgass will be successful. “Claire has been a part of this program for so long and she understands the values of this program,” Filbin emphasizes. “Plus, I have left absolutely everything I could possibly leave. There’s every document, every paper. If there’s not a hard copy, it’s here on this computer. I told her she doesn’t have to use it, but it will give her a guide. I said, ‘Give yourself a year or two and you’ll be on your way.’ She’ll do fine.”

The job wasn’t simply handed to Orgass. Her mentor had to fight for her. “I had to fight,” Filbin said flatly. “For about four or five months I had to fight. I told her, ‘there might be a fight’. Because there’s always one or two holdouts that think you need to go outside the box. What they don’t understand here, if we don’t go this way, everybody could quit. And I think they would. Now everyone’s on board. We have a system where she’s got backup. Which I didn’t have. So, she’s set. This program is set. And the fact that we’re friends, Claire can call me anytime, forever. This is my baby. I would not have turned my baby over to someone I was not comfortable with if I had a choice. Which, I never thought I would. But once I knew I had a chance, I was ready to fight. These are my kids.”

Wesley United Church will hold a celebration of Filbin, Orgass and Mother’s Morning Out on Sunday, May 16. They invite people to attend the 10:00 AM worship service, then stay after for a Mother’s Morning Out Open House to express gratitude, appreciation, and support for both Filbin and Orgass.

Then it will be time for Filbin to start living on Tulsa Time. “I’m going to retire,” Filbin said, “all the way around. Move to Tulsa. My husband had pretty much left instructions that was what I was supposed to do. Buy a brand-new house. So that’s what I’m going to do. I have a lot of ideas of what I want to do. Go back to my woodworking, my art. And do it for fun.”



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