Ann Silberman, executive director of the Bowen Island Children's Centre, is breathing a sigh of relief. Recently the centre received a $27,000 grant from the Ministry of Public Safety and the Solicitor General.
Although the ministry has had to pare down on the resources they are giving people through the gaming fund, they have elected to keep early childhood programs a priority and, thankfully, the money continues to be made available.
The $27,000 will be spent on staff, a music teacher, field trips which the parents are not charged for and nutritious food for the after-school program. "These services are all part of our core programming," Silberman explains, "If we didn't have the gaming funds we would either have to raise our fees or not provide children with these services so again, we are very grateful."
The economic downturn did not sidestep Bowen Island. Most families are watching their dollars very carefully. "Definitely, families are hurting," says Silberman. "We keep our fees as low as we can because we know that every penny counts, especially in these times.
"We have several children on subsidies, but the problem is that the difference between the subsidy rate and what we charge has to be paid by families, or we have to absorb it. Our feeling here at BCC is that every child should be given a head start and pre-school is a necessary head start. We like to think that we can do our bit by helping families who are struggling. We would never ask a child to leave because they could not pay the fees."
Silberman says, "We know that the years from birth to six are extremely formative and families need to be supported through those years. Children need to have opportunities to grow and develop. Part of that support is good quality day-care which allows parents to know that they can bring in the money they need to support their families while their children are well taken care of."
BCC will not survive on grants alone. Bowen Island has the largest number of under five-year-olds per capita in Canada and it takes more than $27,000 a year to provide quality services for that demographic. BCC services 35 families in the after-school club, 41 in the preschool and 37 in the daycare. Further grants are constantly applied for and received.
The centre's annual clothing sale, a major fundraising event, is in mid May.