Change of venue doesn’t deter Rooftop Gala guests from enjoying celebration

Gala organizers and guests toast the 50th anniversary of the Prince Albert Child Care Co-operative Association. -- Photo by Glenda Goertzen.

Glenda Goertzen

Special to the Herald

The Gateway Mall was a child-free zone Friday evening, but children were the focus of the roughly 100 adults gathered there to celebrate a significant milestone.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Prince Albert Child Care Co-operative Association. The co-operative is a community-based organization with a focus on Early Learning programs and services. Executive Director Jodene Demorest is familiar with its history, from its incorporation as a non-profit organization to its most recent achievement, the opening of a fourth child care centre at St. John School in March.

“Fifty years ago childcare was just somewhere to bring your children so you could go to work,” she said in an interview earlier on Friday. “It has evolved into where it is somewhere to bring your children from ages zero to five so they can be exposed to early learning and have that opportunity to start their education in the most important part of their life, where there is the most brain development happening.”

Demorest emphasized the growing need for child care centres to provide a group setting for children. According to Statistics Canada, the size of households in Canada has declined from roughly seven in 1974 to 2.4 in the current decade. “So learning how to get along with others and how to share your space needs to happen in a different setting versus the home, so that’s where early learning and childcare comes in now.”

The organizers of Friday’s celebration had planned for a Rooftop Gala to take place above the Gateway Mall, but high winds drove the event indoors. That didn’t stop the guests, many clad in traditional 50th anniversary shades of black and gold, from enjoying the celebration. One highlight of the event was the silent auction of artwork produced by children who attend the centres.

Demorest shrugged off the change of venue. Overcoming challenges is nothing new for the co-operative, as she explained earlier in the day.

“Your revenue is very limited so you work with what you’ve got, and of course there’s many hurdles that are thrown at you—staffing issues, making sure your staff have the appropriate education, getting that education for your staff.”

The one issue they’ve never faced has been finding children to fill spaces. Demorest said the demand for child care in the city is great. She stated that when the St. John School site opened with 40 new spaces, they filled very quickly.

“June 1st we are absolutely full and we’re on the hunt for a location to plunk down 50 more, so we are in the works of developing a fifth location.”

Jodene Demorest, executive director of the Prince Albert Child Care Co-operative Association. — Photo by Glenda Goertzen.

The other sites are located at King George School, St. Michael School, and Sixth Street East. The four sites employ over 50 staff, Demorest shared.

“We take care of many, many children throughout our community but the other part, now that we’re a larger organization, we’re also taking care of our employees and ensuring that it’s a great place to work. So when you have the two combined, it’s a pretty great environment to be in.”

Demorest attributed much of the success of the co-operative to the support and encouragment of a “very strong” board of directors. As for the success of the 50th anniversary gala, she credited the organization team, the management of the Gateway Mall, and the many donations from businesses within the community. Primarily, she credited the Prince Albert Child Care Co-operative Association.

“It’s a big deal when a company celebrates 50 years. Companies, you know, they don’t always last that long and to see our organization reach that 50-year mark and see how strong we are today—we know we’re going to make another 50 easily.”