Centre under pressure to save building

TRACY MILES
Last updated 15:41 19/12/2013

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A group of mums have raised $19,120 to save their children's centre but still need over $10,000 by early next year or their building will be sold to someone else.

Playcentre has decided to sell the Esk Valley building being leased by the St Andrew's District Children's Centre and the parents are worried they will lose an asset that has served the district for more than 130 years.

But if they can buy the building, there will be an opportunity to have a drop and leave facility serving the local farming community. Currently about 20 children attend the centre.

The short fundraising timeframe means they do not have time to access grants so need to find the money from within the community.

The former Esk Valley School was a Playcentre until the women of the district and the organisation had a philosophical parting of the ways about five years ago.

President Tina Duncan and secretary Alice Porter said, despite the split with Playcentre which happened before their time, they were still on good terms with the organisation and had leased the building from it for the past five years.

Playcentre has given the children's centre first option to buy. The building was valued at $88,000 but the Playcentre is asking for $30,000.

In the early 1990s the property was owned by Landcorp. It was put up for sale and purchased by the Hewson family because Playcentre could not afford to buy it. The building was sold to Playcentre for $6000.

The property is fully set up for the purpose of early childhood education, playground included.

"If we can come up with that money we can retain it for the community," said Mrs Duncan.

She said a lot of work had been done to make the building fit for purpose.

They envisage it being an asset not just for parents of young children but also the wider community, for barbecues, farewells, birthday parties "whatever the community would like a venue for. We'd like to see it being used by the community."

If they can raise the $16,280 needed to reach their target, the Otaio Mobile Kindergarten, which comes under the Waimate Kindergarten, will hold sessions two to three days a week.

This will mean the district has a facility where children over two can be dropped off, freeing parents for work or other activities.

The Ministry of Education will fund an upgrade to bring the property up to kindergarten association standards, which will mean an upgrade of the toilet block, the kitchen and the fence.

Mrs Porter said they want to save the building for future generations.

"A lot of people have been in the community for years. To keep it for future kids would be fantastic."

"Even though we are a children's centre, there are a few of us that are teachers and we are using a programme that follows the curriculum."

The Education Ministry had used their curriculum programme as a model for other centres "so we know we are doing a good job."

Mrs Duncan said the centre was also an important focal point for rural women in the area to stay connected.

"It's nice to be able to know your neighbours. Preschool mums can get a bit isolated. Networking and talking about things that are happening with your kids, you realise you are not alone."

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With the continuing strength of farming in the area, the need for the facility will continue.

They have already had a community meeting, and created an incorporated society.

"We're asking the community for pledges of support, we need to (buy) it very soon. We do have a very supportive community, we just need to get the word out," Mrs Duncan said.

SOUTH CANTERBURY HERALD

- South Canterbury

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