Kiwanis Early Learning Hub officially opens in Dawson Creek

Located behind the South Peace Campus of Dawson Creek Secondary School inside the former Kiwanis Enterprise Centre, the hub offers a central location for a number of programs and services for families with preschool aged children. The centre is made possible through a partnership between the Kiwanis Club of Dawson Creek and School District 59, as well as several other local agencies that support young families.

“It’s just phenomenal when you walk in here, it’s absolutely beautiful, and what I’m interested in is having a spot for kids to come and play and have fun,” said Arlene Thorpe, president of the Kiwanis Club.

She said while it was a difficult to close down the Enterprise Centre, which supported young entrepreneurs, the club was pleased to partner with the school district for a new vision for the facility.

“We were very excited when we were presented with this vision, because it continues to meet the mandate of the Kiwanis Club, which is ‘Children are Priority One,’” she said.

The Kiwanis Club contributed $37,000 towards renovations of the building.

“The Kiwanis Club looks forward to our continued partnership with the school district to provide early learning in the community,” said Thorpe.

Richard Powell, chair of the board of trustees for School District 59, said he was pleased to see just how many programs would be offered from the new early learning centre. With the exception of a modest rent charged to the agencies using space inside the hub, most of the operational funding for the centre is coming from the school district.

“Today is a new beginning, and I’m pleased to welcome the wonderful services that will operate from the hub. All the programs in the hub are there to enhance early learning and support family life in Dawson Creek,” said Powell.

Those programs include Dawson Creek StrongStart, a free drop-in program for parents or caregivers with newborns, toddlers and preschool children. The program is offered every day school is in session from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. More information on the program can be obtained by contacting StrongStart facilitator Jodi Penner at 250-784-7677 or jodi_penner@sd59.bc.ca.

Axis Family Resource Ltd., a community-based social service agency, will coordinate three of its programs from the new hub. It will offer its Complex Developmental and Behavioural Conditions Assessment and Support Services Program; its Foster Parent Support and Training Program; as well as support to local group homes from the hub. More information can be obtained by phoning Amber Lindsey at 250-719-6972 or amber.lindsey@axis.bc.ca.

The South Peace Child Development Centre has relocated its Building Blocks and Young Parent Program there as well. The program includes parenting workshops both in one-on-one and group sessions, complimented by a licenced daycare program for newborns to three-year-olds. For more information on that program, contact executive director Kim Hughes-Brinsky at 250-782-1161 or spcdcdir@telus.net.

The Words on Wheels (WOW) Bus will now be run from an office inside the early learning hub. The bus provides parents and children up to six years of age with on-borad preschool programs, a book and toy lending library, parenting resources, and a healthy snack. Coordinator Karen Hills can be reached at 250-219-2416 or at karen_hills@sd59.bc.ca.

Finally, children up to five years of age will have a fun and safe place to play inside the hub with the Children First Indoor Playground, made possible through the efforts of South Peace Success By Six/ Children First initiative, with contributions by EnCana. The playground will be open when StrongStart is open, but Gloria Cleve, early learning project manager for School District 59, and master of ceremonies for the grand opening, said they are in the midst of fundraising to allow for the playground to be open in the afternoon, evenings and weekends.

Cleve said the hub will add a number of other programs in the near future. For example, she said the Dawson Creek Public Library and Dawson Creek Literacy Now program will be adding a library and reading space in the next few weeks. Starting in the new year, the Dawson Creek Literacy Society will begin offering English-as-a-Second Language (ESL) and literacy lessons for two afternoons every week. Also, starting next February, the South Peace Building Learning Together (BLT) Society, a partnership of the local early learning community, will offer a seven-week nutritional program for families.

She added they will continue to look for other opportunities to host more programs and services in the hub going forward.

The official opening coincided with a celebration of National Child Day that included some cake and other refreshments.

“In celebrating National Child Day, we are celebrating children’s rights, and their ability to be active participants in their own lives and in their communities,” said Cleve. “I want to encourage everyone to take the time to recognize and celebrate children’s rights on National Child Day and throughout the year. In Canada, we are blessed to be in a country that does recognize that children have rights.”

More information on the Kiwanis Early Learning Hub can be obtained by calling Gloria Cleve at 250-784-6330, or emailing her at Gloria_Cleve@sd59.bc.ca. The school district will also be posting updates and details on its website at www.sd59.bc.ca.