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Community pulls together to relieve child care shortage

Community pulls together to relieve child care shortage

It may have taken five years. It may have cost $1.4 million. It may open in the middle of a pandemic, but Aldershot’s East Plains United Church has succeeded in taking a bold step forward.

The church, which is located in the heart of Aldershot, is in the midst of renovating 6,000 square feet of space which will be leased out to a new non-profit child care centre.

“We’ve taken a leap of faith to do it when nobody else would help us” according to Paul Echlin, President of the East Plains Child Care Centre Board of Directors.

The church’s congregation dug deep to come up with the funds for the major renovations required to host the new centre. The members actually had to take on a mortgage to make the money work.

“This is an example of not-for-profit community service, in the middle of a pandemic and economic recession. ……The older church members remember what it was like to lose everything during a depression, they do not want to experience this type of pain again, and want to provide this space for children to thrive now and into the future.”

The day care will open in January. It will not be run by the church although the church will have representation on the Board of Directors. Echlin describes the centre as a federally incorporated not-for-profit, nondenominational, year-round operation that will meet all Provincial rules and regulations. An experienced Director has already been hired.

According to the Region of Halton’s Child Care Market Analysis in January 2020 there was a shortage of child care for infants, toddlers and preschool children in south west Burlington, which includes both Aldershot and the downtown. In a statement this week however, the Region said: “many child care providers in Burlington have since reported vacancies due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Echlin is taking the long view. “Aldershot projects growth to 27,000 people in the next 10 years. This growth will include many young families who will need affordable day care”.

The Centre will eventually have capacity for 73 children, but will open with only 29 due to Covid.

“If people want to work. If you want to come out of the Covid depression which we’re in right now, you need good, affordable and quality child care and that’s exactly what we’re giving at the right time” said Echlin.

The day care centre will include a fenced-in play area with natural grass outside the church. It will open at 7 am. Registration may be done on-line at epucchild.care.com. Fees are described as “in the lower end of not-for-profit”.

The longer-term vision for the centre includes the idea of breakfast for children in need and a variety of educational programs. Money however remains a challenge. In spite of the huge effort by the church congregation Echlin reports; “We’re working with foundations and different levels of government. We’ve already paid for it, but (we could use) help us with the enormous cost”.

By Rick Craven

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