SEBRING — When Cheryl Matthews becomes director of the Children’s Museum of the Highlands in September, she’ll have some big shoes to fill, she acknowledged Friday.
Matthews will be replacing Linda Crowder, who founded the museum 24 years ago and built it from empty space.
After spending time with Crowder at the museum, Matthews said she’s learned about operating it and continuing Crowder’s work.
“I know what she wants it to be,” Matthews said.
While Crowder said she plans to return to her hometown of St. Petersburg and spend more time with her grandchildren, it’s only been a year since Matthews moved to Highlands County from Tampa. She said she was returning to the area where she grew up, having attended schools in DeSoto County as a child.
Matthews said that she previously worked for a child development center in Tampa, that was connected the Jewish Community Center there.
Earlier this year, local friends who knew both her and Crowder told her about the upcoming opening for the museum director.
She said spending time at the museum helped her to determine that becoming the director would be a good fit for her.
Crowder said she intended for Matthews to become the new director.
Having worked at a child development center in Tampa, Matthews said she believes the experience will help her in her new experience.
She said she is “very excited to take some of that child development experience and work with children and families (at the museum).”
Matthews said she finds that parents and children enjoy the museum. Parents spend time with their children doing different activities there, she said.
At this point, Matthews said, she doesn’t have any plans for changes at the museum.
Crowder said she would like to see more classes, but the museum is constrained by space.
On Thursday evening, Crowder introduced Matthews to the Sebring City Council, while asking the City Council to provide $5,000 to the museum for this coming fiscal year.
The council informally agreed to do that.
Crowder said the museum has had 418,000 visitors during the last 23 years and is only one of two destination listings in the AAA book for things to do in Highlands County.
The only other one at Highlands Hammock State Park.