Church expansion prompts search for new location, with community rallying to make it a reality for Sept.For the volunteers at St. Clements Co-operative Nursery School it’s been a long summer. For most of the season, the school didn’t even exist.
“Up until June of this year we operated from Heidelberg at the Bible Fellowship Church. They are growing and they need their space back. It was with regrets from both of us that we had to part ways, but at that point we had to look for a new location. In terms of availability to stay within the community, we were really limited,” said the co-operative’s vice-president, Amy Balatoni.
The team lucked out when they came across a location at 3585 Lobsinger Line in St. Clements, with the help of the organization’s former secretary. But, the space still needs a fair amount of work to accommodate the much-needed services, she said, adding that with the exception of Wellesley Village, parents in St. Clements and Heidelberg have few nearby daycare options.
“There’s definitely a big need. The neighbourhood is starting to turn over in St. Clements and also Heidelberg: there are lots of little bodies coming in, and aside from going to Elmira or somewhere in Waterloo, there is no other spot. We have a community here that has a need for it. There are enough little kids around here that it provides a valuable service.”
Vacant for four years, the space was formerly a restaurant. Large, airy windows span the length of one wall of the 1,900 square-foot area. There will be two bathrooms, a cubby area and more than enough floor space for activities of every kind for the kids. The extra room will allow for more kids and expanded programming in the future.
The non-profit nursery school was established in 1984, with parents pitching in to help with daycare duties. Balatoni said the move was nerve-wracking. She was happy to see the community come together to make the new location a reality in a short time.
“It was super stressful at the beginning. We didn’t know if we could make this work – there were a lot of hoops that we had to jump through.”
The co-operative went to the Township of Wellesley to ensure that the building had the correct zoning properties and received a building permit. An architect and friend referred Balatoni to architect Reema Masri.
“She had a soft spot for us, I think, because we were a nursery school and we were non-profit, so right away she took us on,” she said.
The co-operative also received help from parents, the Paradise and District Lions Club and a number of local sponsors who helped with renovations and financial support.
The main entrance opens onto Lobsinger Line where kids will enter the classroom come September. But while the outside is already lined with colourful flower boxes, there is still work to be done on the inside. When it’s finished, Balatoni hopes the facility can also be rented out as a community space when classes are not running.
“Now the pressure is on,” she said.