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Souris Valley Daycare gearing up for opening, seeking employees and sponsorships

The idea of the Souris Valley Daycare Inc. was born in July 2022 by a group of moms from the Oungre, Lake Alma, Tribune, Torquay and Bromhead areas, out of the strong demand for childcare in the southeast.

ESTEVAN — Another licensed daycare in the southeast is getting closer and closer to being operational.

The idea of the Souris Valley Daycare Inc. was born in July 2022 by a group of moms from the Oungre, Lake Alma, Tribune, Torquay and Bromhead areas, out of the strong demand for childcare in the southeast.

"We were discussing the frustrations that we're facing and the lack of local childcare. Many parents either have to commute to Weyburn or Estevan to source care or stay home with their children because they can't find care," shared president Kelsey Ashworth.

"So, we released a survey to our community via Facebook, trying to quantify the need and interest of local parents in starting and using a facility like this. We got close to 40 responses, specifically from parents that have children about one year old to seven to eight years old. And from there, we decided that this was something we wanted to pursue."

The project initiators reached out to the Government of Saskatchewan consultants, who guided them through the process.

"They guided us to what's called a needs assessment form, essentially an application that applies for government funding that would provide us with space development funding, start-up grants, and then, should we become eligible for operating grants once we are open, for worker salaries or tuition for education, parent fees reduction. In order to be eligible for that, we had to incorporate as a non-profit. And we received that status in September of 2022," Ashworth said.

Other board members who made this project possible include vice-president Patricia Stroeder, Oungre; treasurer Loran Tosczak, Tribune; secretary Taylor Rein, Bromhead; and members Erica Wimmer, Carlene Herlick and Roseanna Stendall, all from Tribune; Stephanie Devresse, Lake Alma; and Shaina Dreschner, Tessa Terett and Rebecca Freiss, all from Torquay.

Ashworth said from there the project "really snowballed". They met with the RM of Souris Valley, RM of Lomond and RM of Cambria, which cover the communities that they pull from, and received "overwhelming support" and financial contributions. They applied for various grants and also started fundraising. And now, 12 months after incorporation, the fast-paced project is nearing its goals and opening day.

"We were one of 20 communities in Saskatchewan to receive the government funding," Ashworth shared. "We were awarded 20 childcare spaces, and subsidized funding for those 20 as well. So that along with some of the grants and the donations that we received allowed us to proceed with designing and building the building that we see today.

"From there, we continued with applying for grants, seeking sponsorship and fundraising efforts. Our total funding goal is $500,000. And we have raised 81 per cent of that, so we're just over $400,000 with a little bit more to go, but we're pretty happy with the progress we've made to date."

Oungre was chosen for its central location in the area they serve and because of the Lyndale Elementary School. The board worked with the RM of Souris Valley to acquire four lots for the daycare.

The building arrived on site just down the street from Lyndale School on July 31 and was set up in August.

"We're currently working to source different furnishings and equipment and assets that will be used inside the building. We've also got a contractor lined up to build us a front and back deck, wheelchair accessible ramp as well as the chain linked playground fence in September," Ashworth said. 

They are looking at being operational later this fall, but there is no set date yet as it depends on several things like the completion of their outdoor assets and staff recruitment.

They are currently taking applications for an executive director as well as early childhood educators' positions. If they have all 20 spaces taken, they will need four to five full-time staff.

Fundraising efforts continue as well, Ashworth said. People can follow their project and learn more about their needs via the Souris Valley Daycare Inc. Facebook page.

They currently have various sponsorship opportunities including capital investments, which are cash donations towards major projects like fencing or a deck; friends of daycare packages, which are lower-value investments meant for specific areas inside daycare like a reading corner, infant room, etc.; and items on their wish list to furnish daycare, like craft supplies, small kitchen appliances, etc.

They also have a tentative waitlist and are still accepting applications for children between one and six years of age, and the registration can be found on their page as well.

The board is also hoping to be able to offer a few before and after school spots, but that isn't in the works yet, Ashworth said.

Ashworth thanked everyone who's been helping them over the past year to get where they are today.

"We're a non-profit organization, so our success is heavily dependent on community support, corporate donations and the generosity of all of our local communities. A huge thank you to everyone who supported us and encouraged us along the way to get where we are today," Ashworth said.