PORT AUX BASQUES, NL – Viewed from the outside, the new building housing the Growing Our Future Childcare Co-operative (GOFCC) is deceptively small and almost resembles a private home. Inside is a warm, spacious and appealing environment designed to stimulate and entertain pre-school age children.
On Friday, April 13 the daycare held an open house for parents, children and guests to familiarize themselves with the facility and get to know the staff. One of the parents who stopped by was Tiffany Hann, who has enrolled her son Tucker in the daycare.
“I was looking for something more full-time and more kids to interact with,” said Hann. Her son, Tucker, was attending one day per week with a private caregiver before but will play at the new daycare five days per week.
For staff members such as Amber Kettle, the draw to return home to work in her chosen field was too good to pass up.
“I actually graduated from the College of the North Atlantic in Corner Brook in 2016,” said Kettle, who had initially found work at a childcare centre in Corner Brook until this opportunity arose. “I didn’t think it would happen but I’m glad it did.”
Both Hann and Kettle agree the daycare was much needed in the region, and that childcare issues pose a significant problem for smaller rural areas in the province.
“It’s nice to have something like this around here,” said Hann. “Maybe it can draw more younger generations to move home and be able to bring their kids with them.”
“You’ve got more variety in Corner Brook, but I know there were people still looking for childcare for younger children, like infants, because not a lot of places did take the infants. They had to be two and over,” said Kettle.
The daycare has four infants registered, although it can accommodate up to six. Each infant will have her own crib, and the care area for the babies even boasts a comfortable rocking chair in addition to all of the expected baby toys and necessities.
The two toddler rooms boast everything a child could want to play with such as elevated sandboxes, doll houses, police and fire costumes, toy vehicles, books, paints and colouring material.
Altogether the GOFCC can handle 34 children, although right now only 25 are registered. Manager Glenda Osmond expects that number will increase soon.
“We don’t really have enough staff yet. Technically until we hire that staff, I think we can take two or three more children.”
In addition to the indoor attractions, children will also have an outdoor play space, courtesy of Marine Atlantic. Darrell Mercer, corporate communications officer for Marine Atlantic, wrote via email that the Crown Corporation was pleased to help out.
“We saw this investment as a win-win for both the town and Marine Atlantic, and another way for our corporation to give back to the community and the people who help make our operations a success on a daily basis. Daycare services were certainly required within the town and will be utilized by many residents, including Marine Atlantic employees. Daycare availability is also an important factor when trying to recruit new people to the area.”
It's not the first time Marine Atlantic has made a significant contribution to this region. The Crown corporation invests regularly in events such as Winter Carnival and Come Home Year, as well as contributing to the region’s fire services and areas such as the Scott’s Cove Park boardwalk.
“Over the next few weeks, we will be working with our employees from a volunteer perspective to help with preparation activities for the outdoor play area. There is a lot of excitement within our organization regarding this project and the benefit it will have for children and families in the area,” wrote Mercer. “We look forward to our ongoing partnership with the community and future opportunities that may be presented.”
Late snows have hampered plans for the outdoor space somewhat. Osmond confirmed they are already in the process of ordering all the outdoor equipment.
“We are very appreciative of (Marine Atlantic's) efforts,” said Osmond, who hopes that the weather will start to co-operate. “It’s going to be a couple more weeks. Once the playground gets up and running it’s going to be even nicer still.”
In the meantime, Osmond still has plans to brighten up the interior a bit, particularly the neutral hallways, with brighter paints and decals. And while the daycare is currently only licensed until children are old enough to go to school, that doesn’t mean things can’t change.
“Who knows? In five years we might be adding a piece onto our building for after school care.”