It was a long time coming, but the Prince Albert Early Years Family Resource Center in the Gateway Mall finally got their official ribbon cut on Thursday afternoon.
Staff, users and supporters gathered to celebrate the opening of the new location, as well as the opening of the new Prince Albert KidsFirst office. The two spaces are both located inside the Gateway Mall.
Family Resource Center Coordinator Tobie Devitte was happy to finally have a public event for the location, which has been operational since February 2020.
“I think it’s so wonderful to publicly announce that we are here and so officially,” said Devitte,
“We’ve been open for so long, but it continues to raise awareness of who we are and what we’ve done. I think it’s really big. I always feel like it’s like a birthing experience in itself and we’ve been pregnant all this time and now we’ve given birth to this beautiful place (which) it comes to fruition and families are coming back.
Devitte said the goal of the Family Resource Center is to be a hub for families with children from birth to 5 years old. She wants it to be a place where they feel comfortable and can ask questions about early childhood and find connections with the community.
“We’re just acting as that visual point for families to come,” she explained. “Everything we do is free. We just really want to put them in touch with community agencies that already exist and we do a lot of referrals. ”
Many speakers on Thursday cited research showing that brain development occurs faster in the zero to five age window than at any other time in a person’s life. Devitte said this underlines how important it is to have an information center for families.
“We know so much about (how) brain development in the first five years is so important,” she said. “It’s just a matter of allowing families to have this space, especially since it’s free. It was really important for us to be in the mall, which is centrally located.
After an opening prayer from Elder Rose Bird, program manager Mick Gratias of KidsFirst Prince Albert explained the origin of the project.
Gratias explained that KidsFirst’s new location opened in April 2021 after being located at King George School. The program itself had been in existence since 2001.
Gratias said having the two locations side by side benefits both partners.
“It’s fabulous,” he said. “Together, the two programs provide so much support to families in the community. It couldn’t be better.
He said the Gateway Mall was chosen because it serves as a gathering place for families and is accessible by city bus. “We are also very close to many of our other partners like ESIP and PAGC Urban Services,” he said. “They’re all sort of in the core. The whole idea was accessibility, and where would be a place that could accommodate it?
In the 2018-2019 budget, the provincial government signed the Canada-Saskatchewan Early Learning and Child Care Agreement.
According to the federal government, the objectives include the expansion of Francophone child care services and the inclusion of preschool children with disabilities.
The agreement is committed to opening preschool learning centers in Prince Albert, La Ronge, Meadow Lake,
Sandy Bay, Saskatoon, Regina, North Battleford, Moose Jaw, Yorkton and Nipawin.
Devitte read a greeting from Mayor Greg Dionne who sent his regrets as the city’s budget consultations are underway. Alana Ross, MP for Prince Albert Northcote, brought greetings from the province and Education Minister Dustin Duncan.
Saskatchewan Rivers Education Director Robert Bratvold, replacing Board Chairman Barry Hollick, delivered greetings on behalf of the division, which is a responsible partner.
Abby Ring cut the ribbon on Thursday. Ring currently uses the center with his mother Rebecca Ring and baby Ralph Ring.
Former Prince Albert Family Futures CEO Donna Strauss was seen as a visionary behind the center throughout the afternoon.
Saskatchewan Rivers School Division Facilities Superintendent Mike Hurd acted as the project manager for the construction of the facility and completed the project on time and on budget.
Gateway Mall General Manager Sharon Faul was recognized for her role in setting up the project.
In his speech, Mick explained that the project really started in 2017 with the consultation of the partners, two years before the funding appeared, 2018 was a community consultation and the real work started in 2019 and the center opened. its doors in February 2020.
Devitte noted that the location serves other purposes.
“Even the fact that you don’t have it in a school, that if families have trauma or experiences or something like that, that’s really what the center has a right to be,” said Devitte.
“We’re just happy to be able to work within COVID regulations and offer programming. It’s just wonderful to see the community come and partner with us, ”she added.
After the ribbon was cut, there was the possibility to visit the Resource Center.
Community partners include KidsFirst, Family Futures, the Prince Albert Early Childhood Council, and the Saskatchewan Rivers School Division.
“It’s very diverse,” said Devitte. “I like to associate with everyone who is ready to share. I think it’s wonderful that we have this ability.
“We just invite all families with young children in town to come and have a look. These services are absolutely free, ”added Gratias.