Mitchell brings music and art to Wilton Congregational Church

In April, Wilton Congregational Church welcomed Ridgefield resident Wendy Mitchell as its interim director of children and family ministries and promoted her to a full-time position in June.

Mitchell succeeds former director Candace Dolberry, who has left to work toward becoming an ordained minister.

Mitchell joined Wilton Congregational after leaving her job of about seven years as a regional editor for an online news outlet.

“I wanted to get back to work that was more related to my field,” said Mitchell, who has an early childhood teaching certification. “I just felt like it was time to get back to what I love to do — working with children.”

As Wilton Congregational Church’s director of children and family ministries, Mitchell oversees programs for babies through fifth graders.

“I supervise two teachers and about a half-dozen volunteers,” said Mitchell, who also does community outreach and organizes programs for children and families in the church and community.

Before Wilton Congregational, Mitchell worked as director of Christian education at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Stamford and director of children’s and family ministry at Bethel United Methodist Church in Bethel.

She also worked as a daycare director at Christian Life Academy in Brookfield, according to her LinkedIn page.

Mitchell is teacher-certified in early childhood education through the state of Connecticut, studied child development at Post University, and has continuing education credits through Yale Divinity School and the Association of Christian Schools International.

With 15 years of experience teaching musical theater to children in the area — including as a music teacher in New Milford — Mitchell said her artistic background makes her “different” from previous children and family ministries directors.

After the 2012 tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Mitchell organized a team of volunteers and founded the Sandy Hook Arts Center for Kids — also known as The Shack — in Newtown, which operated for about a year.

“We offered free programs for the community to help them heal after the tragedy,” she said.

“We had the Newtown-Strong Therapy Dogs come in, and we would have free pop-in art sessions and offered [different types of therapies].”

When it comes to Wilton Congregational, Mitchell said, “a lot of what I bring to this program is my art background.”

“A lot of what I do here is going to be community-service focused and involve music and the arts,” she said.

Mitchell is organizing an after-school kid’s choir program for third through fifth graders at Wilton Congregational, which will begin in the fall.

“It’s going to be a free, after-school program called Fuse, which stands for Friends United in Service to Everyone,” she said, “and kids can take the bus here after school.” Mitchell said the program is “like a community service group.”

“They’ll play fun games and make crafts for the community, but there will be the kids choir component to it,” she said.

“I did a similar program when I was at [Bethel United Methodist Church], where we made cards for veterans, read to seniors, made pillowcases for children in Yale New Haven Hospital’s cancer ward.”

Mitchell said the best part about working at Wilton Congregational is the people.

“I’ve worked in a few different churches, and I volunteered and attended many in the area,” she said.

“The people here at Wilton Congregational are so warm and welcoming, and they’ve just been wonderful.”

As Wilton Congregational’s children and family ministries director, Mitchell said, her goal is to “raise up strong leaders of happy, self-confident children.”

“I do that through teaching Bible lessons that help them to strengthen their faith, learn about God and grow up to be our next leaders, hopefully,” she said.