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FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — The Child Development Centre (CDC) in Fort St. John is celebrating 50 years in 2023.
Executive director Tana Millner said the centre provides early intervention services for kids aged zero to six and other programming for those up to 19 years old.
“We have therapies, support childcare, infant development, aboriginal infant development, harassment and skills program,” Millner said.
“Our family drop-in program, our autism program, lots of parenting groups. There’s probably over 12 different programs that operate out of the centre.”
When the CDC began in 1973, Millner said there was likely only the early intervention program.
“It started out with families needing therapies because they were travelling to Prince George for services,” she explained. “One very resourceful and amazing lady named Sherry McDonald decided to partner with the CDC in Prince George to facilitate opening up a CDC here.”
Millner said she believed McDonald began talks with the CDC in Prince George at the end of 1972, and in October of 1973, the Fort St. John CDC was incorporated.
The dynamic has shifted at the centre compared to the early years. It started with limited staff and relied heavily on volunteers.
“We now have over 45 staff, including our casuals and then a full board of 10 members and volunteers,” Millner explained.
Employee numbers grew in the last 50 years, but so did caseloads and client lists.
“Caseloads in the very beginning would’ve been 10 to 15 children, and now we see over 1,250 children per year,” Millner said.
“We have pretty significant caseloads and quite a lengthy wait list just based on the capacity we have with our funding.”
Another person Millner wanted to highlight was Dr. Richard Moody, the medical director on the board, who has been around since the centre’s early years.
“He was one of the original members that really strived to get services to our community, and he’s still a board member,” Millner said.
“We’ve had so many tremendous people that have worked for this organization in a volunteer capacity… We wouldn’t have our CDC if it wasn’t for the pioneer spirit to start with and then ongoing support through the years.”
Millner said most of their funding is through the ministry of children and families, about 73 or 74 per cent, while the rest is through fundraising dollars.
“Anything extra you see at our centre’s building, all of that was done by donations and sponsorships,” she said.
In 2008, the centre expanded the building, and, more recently, they constructed a nature-based playground called the Nelson Playground, named after the neighbours who supported the CDC through construction.
Annually, the centre hosts two main fundraising events: the talent show and the golf tournament.
The talent show is helping raise funds for a new roof on one of the centre’s older buildings this year.
To take in the annual talent show, the CDC is asking for food bank donations on March 3rd. Doors open at 5:45 p.m at the North Peace Cultural Centre, and the show begins at 6 p.m.
Visit their website to learn more about the CDC and how to get involved.
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