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Festival helps get word out on how the HUB helps families

Smiles beamed from the faces of participants at a recent fall festival and the HUB Child and Family Centre hopes word will spread to others on how its programs and services can help infants and children to 13 years old, and their families.

With the sun glinting brightly and the air as warm as summer, it was a perfect day to enjoy the free event while showcasing what is available for families.

Three-and-a-half year-old Luca, from Wellington, enjoyed being inside of one of the big trucks on display.

The parking lot adjacent to the 10 McFarland Drive, Picton family centre on Saturday was filled with big trucks for children to ask questions and explore as they sat up high surrounded by dials, buttons, and levers.

The fire truck, crane, school bus, digger, construction equipment, police vehicle, racing car, hydro truck, snow plow and more, were also the source of frequent honking of very loud horns.

The HUB’s executive director Susan Quaiff, said all participants were happy to volunteer their time and to chat to the children about their specific vehicle.

“It is a great opportunity for families and children, and for children to think about a career in it,” said Quaiff. “Would you like to be a police officer; would you like to work for the fire department or hydro?”

The HUB provides quality licensed and early learning programs, something the not-for-profit, government-funded organization has done in Prince Edward County since 1989.

Geared to children from infants up to 13-year-olds, the centre provides a variety of services and programs with a mission to support and enhance physical and emotional well-being, development and education.

The idea behind the festival was not only for enjoyment of existing users, but also to get word out about the facility to those who don’t know about the centre.

“We seem to be the best kept secret sometimes as an Early On centre,” Quaiff said.

“The winter is going to be long and they will want some place to get out with their children and it is ideal to come to a place like this – a big play space – and have a great time.”

Children’s activities take place in front of the facility, located behind the hospital and next to the fairgrounds, as well as inside and in the safe, fenced outdoor area at the rear of the property.

The festival activities were typical of seasonal fun offered, including a kids’ kitchen area, birdhouse making, pumpkin decorating, colouring and crafts, painting and more. There were tiny trucks to play with in the sand pit, tricycles to ride on the paved path, and a scavenger hunt for the older ones.

The face painting corner garnered the most interest where the two face painters were kept busy for hours, and end results delighted recipients and families alike.

Susan Quaiff, HUB Child and Family Centre Executive Director

As the HUB continues work to overcome shortages of child care spaces, Quaiff noted the shortages aren’t just in the County, but are being experienced everywhere, including major centres such as Toronto and Ottawa.

“There are lots of waitlists across the province, so meeting that demand is going to be a challenge.”

While the HUB is experiencing more demand than available spaces for some of its services, Quaiff says they are looking at various options to help local families.

“At this time, it is unusual for the HUB not to be able to serve as many people as we want, so we are sitting with a wait list at most of our programs.

The wait list, she noted, doesn’t apply so much to the school age programs, but to the two centres, one at Massassaga-Rednersville School and at the main HUB in Picton.

Work is also under way to build the home child care program, an area Quaiff says they are seeing some growth, with three new care givers on board this month alone.

It also means those children who join this home child care program can be taken off the wait list, freeing up space for others.

Quaiff said the past two COVID-19 pandemic years were difficult to manage as home child care givers were unable to have others in their homes.

“Our home child care is the piece that we can grow, so we are looking for more folks that may want to do that at home until their children get to school.”

Quaiff adds the HUB goes into the homes and puts in all the supports, collects all the fees, and pays caregivers a a good wage.

Home child care are smaller settings as they are only allowed to have a maximum of six children in each home.

The biggest challenge right now is affordability for young families living here, and Quaiff says they are also looking at increasing salaries for the early childhood educators because they play a critical role.

“Families that use our services know the value of them… so we are working internally as best we can to address that.”

Addressing the cost of child care, Quaiff was pleased to share that the HUB’s application for the Canada-Wide Early Learning and Child Care system has been accepted.

That federal government program is working toward reducing fees by 50 per cent on average and bringing fees down to $10 a day, on average, by 2026.

“It’s going to take time, and we understand that, and I think parents do too.”

They are in the midst right now of rebating families back 25 per cent of what was paid from April 1, and they will be reducing fees from Oct. 1 by 25 per cent. In January, it is supposed to go 50 per cent.

“We know families have struggled to pay, but in order to operate a business we did have to do some parent increases to maintain staff wages and just overall operations.”

The school age programs are also doing well again, after the pandemic curtailed operations, where they operate before and after (some offer only after school) programs at five area schools, including St. Gregory’s Catholic School, CML Snider Elementary School, Prince Edward Collegiate Institute and Kente Public School.
New this year is Sophiasburgh Central School.

The HUB also offers a pre-school program which is not a childcare centre, and is not a full day, but offers two, two-and-a-half hour mornings each week.

“It’s a good little introduction from being away from mum, and being in a group setting with other children and in a school, so we are just trying to help with that transition now and it’s really been quite busy.”

While Quaiff has focused on children getting a good start on their lives for the past three decades, she is now considering her own retirement to spend more time with her retired husband, and her family – including eight grandchildren – and indicated that might come sometime next year.

Having recently advertised for a new executive director, Quaiff said the HUB is putting provisions in place internally to make the process as easy as possible for her successor, prior to her departure.

“It’s been amazing,” she beams with pride. “I will be reaching 32 years here when I am leaving.”

She started in the toy library 31 years ago and over the years continued her education and experience gaining perspective on licensed care, family support, special needs, and so many other areas.

“I am grateful for the amount of time I have been here and the education and the advancements I have made in my career.

“My number one priority has always been the families and the children, and anything I can do to support them is really important to me,” Quaiff said. “Sometimes, you just move things out of the way to make things happen, which has been a great opportunity for me as well.“

Tyler and Kaisha from Ameliasburgh with their children, Jamie, 1, Emma, 4, and Sadie, 6, who explored the big trucks and had their faces painted.

Quaiff sees the nostalgia setting in and event’s like the fall festival enhance it.

“I see families that were here as children and are coming back into our services. It’s so wonderful to have that opportunity…It’s history; it’s looking back and I am sure I will be looking for something to do in a bit, but I do feel it is time for me to sit back a bit and enjoy (her own) family a bit more.”

“I’ve been so fortunate to do what I love for so long, as some people do work and aren’t really loving what they are doing. I thought I would just hang my hat for a while and I’ve stayed for 32 years… but I do think it’s time for younger.”

The HUB, she says, is on a good, solid ground.

And while she notes “it’s hard without a crystal ball”, with so much projected development on the horizon, and on-going, in both Picton and Wellington, there will likely be new and growing families to the area “and I think that is something that we need to be thinking about and trying to address.”

Quaiff has also been working on a province-wide level, as well with the Family Supports Institute of Ontario, and Families Canada, to raise more awareness on available resources generally.

She says the campaign asks things such as, “Do you know there is an Early On centre in your area?, Do you know what an Early On centre does?”

“It’s a very natural, organic piece to come together with families and children, but the benefits from that are so great because they are able to talk to other parents and they know what they are going through is very similar, and how their child’s development is at that stage.”

People can also ask for additional support when they need it.

“We want to be here to do those types of things and we still find we have families with food insecure pieces, so we are trying to make sure we meet that demand as well.”

The HUB has been successful with several grants recently which has helped to continue work with the Community Development Council of Quinte, located in Belleville, to get food boxes.

There is now a dry pantry as well so families can go to the HUB when they are in need of supplies, plus they have baby boxes with formula and diapers.

“It’s good that we are out there and the more people know about us, the more the better.”

Katherine Jenner, from Picton, with her one-and-a-half year old daughter Olivia.

People are invited to explore the services, programs and resources offered by the HUB Child and Family Centre, as well as recruitment opportunities, at thehubcentre.ca,  by calling 613-476-8142 or by email to info@thehubcentre.ca

Click here to visit the HUB on Facebook

Click here to visit the HUB on Instagram

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