Marc Lalonde sees the results every day of the vision of three women 20 years ago.
Lalonde is the executive co-ordinator of the Beaufort Children’s Centre, and he along with his staff are celebrating the 20th anniversary of the centre Oct. 18.
He explained the centre came together under the guidance of three women who saw the need for infant and toddler care for working parents, as there was a void for this type of care in the Valley at the time.
Mary McLennan, Shurley Mazzerolle and Vlasta Grant came together to fundraise towards the construction of the centre, while North Island College administration agreed to dedicate a piece of land at its then-new location on Ryan Road, he said.
“The number one priority was to provide spaces for students, staff and faculty at NIC, and then open it to the community,” added Lalonde.
Currently, the Beaufort Child Care Society operates three child care group day care programs: Hummingbird (for toddlers between 18 to 36 months), Ladybug and Orca, both for children aged 30 months to school age, able to serve 25 and 17 children respectively.
Although the centre is at its 54-space capacity and is taking names for a wait list, it serves more than 80 families a month because it offers spaces for two, three, four and five days a week.
The centre has 14 regular full-time staff, and are all qualified as Early Childhood Educators.
Lalonde said he is proud of the centre’s ratios of ECEs to children.
“It is lower than required ratios; the requirement is one educator for every four toddlers for preschool, and we have one to three … more makes for stressed children and stressed staff. With a lower ratio, you have better interaction with children, and it allows (the educators) to focus on the job they want to do and engage the children more in-depth.”
Lalonde added recently a standardized tool called the Early Childhood Environmental Education Rating Scale showed the centre rated at the highest level in the way they interacted with children, with each other, and communication with parents.
“Those are three strong pillars of quality,” he said.
Looking ahead, Lalonde said the centre is looking to build on the strong link it has with NIC, noting its strategic plan highlights a desire to create more culturally diverse programs.
“Because of the link with the college, we’re going to be accepting international students. It helps children learn culture and practise language, and it’s such a benefit on both sides.”
He explained with more than 20 years of experience working with aboriginal programs, Lalonde has also created a partnership with the Aboriginal Head Start Program.
Staff will be participating in a staff swap this week, and he said he is looking forward to strengthening the relationship between the two organizations.
A celebration for the centre is planned for 10 a.m. Oct. 18, with a tea, cake cutting, slide show and more.
Comox Valley MLA Don McRae is scheduled to attend.