EarlyON Centre Seeks Help to Create Shade Structure

At the May 1st Council meeting, EarlyON Centre’s Managing Director Nancy Hurley explained the role of this critical family resource in our community.  Its mandate is to support early learning and development, engage parents and caregivers and help them make connections in the community.   It takes a community-directed approach, providing accessible programs, services, and resources aimed at meeting the needs of local children and families and is overseen by a volunteer Board of Directors comprised of parents, teachers and other residents who take an active role in the Centre’s operations.

Staff in the Family Centre offers a wide range of stimulating programs six days a week, five days at the Old Millbrook School and one at Keene United Church.  As for the impact of this organization, the numbers speak for themselves:  in the first three and a half months of 2023, the Centre welcomed 1,134 unique children and 915 adult visitors, each returning on average more than four times.  This repeat business suggests that visitors appreciate the experience the Centre provides.

Even before the pandemic limited indoor programming, staff ensured children had many outdoor experiences in all seasons, recognizing the tremendous child development benefits of spending time outdoors.  Staff work hard to foster a love and respect for nature, and take full advantage of the Family Centre’s setting, hosting activities in the park behind the school, on the playground equipment or in mud kitchen.  The community garden also provides a rich backdrop for outdoor education.

Ms. Hurley approached Council with a request to consider assisting the organization in establishing a shade structure in the area where outdoor activities are conducted.  Caregivers and young children are reluctant to spend much time outdoors in this play area, particularly during the warmer months, over concerns about sun exposure.  A pavilion with a fixed roof or even a sail structure would provide some relief from the sun.  The property belongs to the township, so no construction or alteration to the property can occur without Council approval.  The organization is prepared to make a significant financial contribution to the project, and have asked that a shade structure of some significance be considered as part of fall budget discussions with installation that would allow its use in the spring/summer 2024 season.  KG

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