People said it couldn't be done, that it was too lofty of a goal. But, the Windsor Day Care Centre's executive had a vision and soldiered on with hopes of building a new facility. After years of hard work, their state-of-the-art new childcare centre is near capacity and is the talk of the town.
The non-profit daycare hosted a community celebration earlier this month not only to celebrate the grand opening of the new building, but the centre's 37th anniversary in Windsor as well.
“Initially… we were told there wasn’t a need for a daycare in Windsor and it wasn’t a necessity. So I’m very proud to say… we’re proving them wrong because we have this building just about full and we’ve only been in it for three months. So, we’re very pleased and we’re very happy about it,” said Leslie Porter, a driving force behind the new building fundraiser.
The centre can now accommodate 80 youngsters, up from 67, and features everything from in-floor heating and low-to-the-ground windows for the children, to necessities like appropriate storage, an office for the centre's director and a staff room.
“It’s been a dream for me and the rest of the board to have a new building and a great place for children to learn and grow... and also to get teachers a nice place to teach in and be able to hire some new teachers,” said Porter, who noted how important access to affordable, quality childcare is.
Sarah Weatherbee, a teacher at the daycare, said the new building is a vast improvement over their Stannus Street location.
“It’s a lot brighter and more welcoming for the children,” said Weatherbee, sitting next to the giant windows that children enjoy looking out.
“The old building wasn’t designed to be a childcare centre. This place was. It is a lot better that way.”
The centre is near and dear to Porter's heart as she relied on the daycare when she arrived in town as a single mother about 25 years ago.
“If I didn't have that daycare to put my child into, I wouldn't have gone back to school, so I wouldn't have gone on to be a nurse and I wouldn't have gone on to get a job,” said Porter. She also probably wouldn't have met Chuck Porter, now the MLA for Hants West, got married and had more children.
“It's always been a part of our life — probably mine for 25 years, Chuck's for at least 17 years. We both took turns on the board,” she said.
“We've always been involved with the daycare at some level, whether it was as a parent or as a board member, so 10 years ago... this all started and we decided we needed a new centre, our building was falling down around us and it was just going to pot.”
That's when they started the capital campaign and in 2005, received a provincial grant allowing the project to move forward.
But getting the project underway turned out to be an uphill battle. The society had to reapply for the previously approved government funding. Then, they found it increasingly difficult to meet all of the licensing requirements.
Porter said there were times she didn't think the project was ever going to be completed.
“Over the last three years, there's been points in time, I'm sure, many points in time where I was like 'OK, I'm done, this is it, I've had enough, can't do it anymore, we've tried our best, we're not going to get the centre,'” recalled Porter. “But because of the history with the daycare centre and those girls that are still there that taught my daughter, I just didn't give up — they called me a dog with a bone. I just kept going.”
And that perseverance paid off.
The $1-million project, led by Halifax-based Avondale Construction, was finished in 2012 and the daycare opened for business Oct. 29.
“It’s probably been my biggest accomplishment, other than having my children.” - Leslie Porter
They paid for the new childcare centre with a $675,000 forgivable loan issued by the provincial government, a $225,000 low-interest loan from the same party and a $150,000 loan from the Hants-Kings Community Business Development Corporation.
“The parents that came from the old building have a true appreciation of what their kids now have, that they didn't have the opportunity to have at the old centre,” said Porter.
The society held an open house Feb. 2 and more than 140 people dropped by in the first hour.
“The whole thing means a big deal for me. It’s more than what I could put into words,” said Porter, adding, “It’s probably been my biggest accomplishment, other than having my children.”
The Windsor Day Care Centre's executive non-profit society overseeing the operations is currently planning fundraisers to chip away at the debt accrued from the build. They have about $375,000 to pay off. They don't have money for a sign yet, or to landscape the spacious outdoor play area, but Porter is hopeful the public will support them in their efforts, and participate in their fundraisers.
The centre is comprised of Pat Post (director), teachers Klowa Bartlett, Bev Brown, Cheryl Caldwell, Heather Cochrane, Jessica Croft, Stephanie Graham, Sheryll Lee, Elissa Smardon, Sue Spencer, Lori Upshaw, and Weatherbee, plus nutritional planner Lynn Caldwell. Some have been with the centre for more than 25 years.
The executive board consists of Porter (president) and members Maureen Dill, Tena Moyles, Mikelle Porter and Stephanie Sedgwick.
“It was a challenge, but well worth it in the end,” said Porter.