UNITY — For Unity Community Daycare, the number of hours from research and planning to open is too difficult to tally. The rewards the Town of Unity have with licensed daycare, however, are immeasurable. The biggest hurdle for the volunteer board was securing space to house the daycare, which now occupies the former offices of Heartland Health. The childcare centre opened in 2016.
However, a new hurdle has evolved which means the Unity Community Daycare Centre is fundraising for a new and expanded space, whether that is a new build or a bigger location. The organization says they have outgrown their existing space and the board has recognized the need for a larger centre.
A highly successful Dueling Pianos performance that netted the organization $19,000 was just the start.
“Every fundraiser gets us closer to our goal of a larger centre,” says Megan Wilson, ECE III, director of Unity Community Daycare.
“We are hopeful for what the future holds for our daycare, and for all the opportunities it will bring to the community. More of these fundraisers will take place, starting soon, to fulfil their goals.”
Wilson acknowledges they don’t know yet where their new location will be and they are currently researching both existing buildings and the option of building new.
“Currently we are able to have 35 kids scheduled on any given day. We would love to have a centre where we can have at least 50 children if not more. We have nine staff members, five of whom are full-time, three casual staff and one summer student. Our team is dedicated to the children and centre, and I cannot say enough good things about the ladies we have taking care of the children every day, they are superstars,” explains Wilson.
Volunteer board members include Tanya Swarbrick, Amber Uzelman, April McGonigle, Sheena Weber, Kim Lasko, Christal Wildeman, Isee Vendiola-Cabanilla and Kari Stabbler.
Unity Community Daycare is a non-profit organization. This means they provide a service for the community without financial gain. The organization has a group of volunteer board members who contribute their time and input to the centre. The board members and the director meet and work closely to form decisions for the centre. Every fundraiser or grant they get goes a long way within the organization.
“At Unity Community Daycare we hold a high standard of quality childcare and are continuously growing and adapting to better the centre and children in our care.” The childcare centre has eight staff that include Megan Wilson, Jesse Hochstein, Danny Els, Arlene Orth, Clarrize Catalan, Merly Catalan, Noor Zuhairi & Evy Glazier.
Wilson acknowledges that their biggest challenge is they have no room to grow. They cannot offer care to infants as the current building does not have a sprinkler system. UCD has an ever-growing wait list and they are eager to expand to care for more families.
“We have had to turn away many families, including those that have working moms that want to return to work once their child turns 12 months of age. Unfortunately, we can only take children at 18 months at this time. With a new building we will be able to change this,” says Wilson.
At present there is no set timeline, but Wilson says their dream is to have a new centre in five years, but also knowing that they are in the early stages of planning.
“We hope that with the community’s continual support, a five-year plan will be possible.”
UCD has a Facebook page to keep daycare families and residents up to date on activity and new fundraising plans.
Carmen Bowker and Crystal O’Brian were two of the original residents, moms and volunteer board members who began conversations in 2009 that led to the 2016 opening of a childcare centre in Unity. Both had young children at the time, but by the time their vision of Unity’s newest daycare came to be, neither would benefit from its services, a true testament to the commitment of those who saw their vision as reality.
The intention was to never take away from existing daycare in Unity but rather add services and hours that are currently unavailable. This would mean opening through school breaks, including summer, giving parents less worry about finding alternate daycare if someone is sick or on vacation.
As well as operating the daycare, the Unity Community Daycare also operates the after-school program offered at both elementary schools.