For the very first time, YCMA, the largest not-for-profit child care provider in Canada has opened a centre in Fort St. James.
This centre offers child care programs for infants, toddlers and preschoolers aged three to five years. The newly rennovated space is completely updated, painted, decorated and filled with brand new equipment, educational toys and small-sized furniture for little ones. There is even a little bathroom with toddler sized sink and toilet.
The issue of day care has long been a need. The project has been looking for a location for at least six years, since 2011 when former Fort resident, Suzanne Lorimer, began talks with Tyrell Arnold, Executive Director of NVCSS.
Originally a proposal was brought forward to use the old courthouse building as the location for a day care facility. But the search for a local operator slowed things down and eventually in 2015 the municipality decided to rent the space to the Arts Council for use as Pope Mountain Arts centre.
The search continued for a possible child care centre location. When Fireweed Collective Society relocated their safehouse to another property, this space became available for consideration. Right around the same time the Ministry of Children and Family Development offered capital funding for early childhood spaces. NVCSS applied and were successful. With a space secured, the hunt was on for a local contractor to operate the child care centre and failing that conversations began with the YMCA.
Statement by Amanda Alexander, CEO, YMCA Northern BC:
“Nechako Valley Community Services Society did an immense amount of work around researching local community needs. They identified the need around childcare and the importance of early childhood education and early learning to the community. So there was a lot of thought that went into wanting to meet that community need and that’s totally the platform that the YCMCA comes from; to help families and support kindergarten readiness.
“So many children in our province are vulnerable and so it’s a partnership based on strong philosophy and belief systems that aligned. NVCSS did all the great work in pulling the finances together and heavy lifting to secure the centre – shortly after we came on as a partener operator.”
Funding parters include: District of Fort St. James, Centerra Gold (Thompson Creek Metals), Ministry of Children and Family Development, Nechako Valley Community Services Society, YMCA of Northern BC, United Way – Success By Six, Buckley Valley Child Development Centre, First Call: BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition (Early Childhood Development Roundtable).
Tyrell Arnold, NVCSS Executive Director said, “Mt. Milligan donated $40,000 back in 2011 when they started. We’ve been holding onto that money since then, waiting for the right space. It’s wonderful to finally see our vision come to fruition. We are very excited to have the centre up and running. It’s a beautiful space.”
In the 40th year of operation for NVCSS, this Child Care Centre is a particularly good example of the kind of projects and multi-agency collaboration the society works to get in place for communities they serve.
The overall project budget was $170,000. The YMCA covered additional costs for equipment and supplies, paint was provided by Four Rivers Co-op and Excel Painting.
Three early childhood educators have been employed from the Fort. The YMCA Child Care centre is now open five days a week 7:45 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. offering different child care options: five days, three days or two days per week. Registration is open, but space is limited. For a tour of the facility call Nalome Diston, FSJ Child Care Coordinator at 250-996-0320.