New EarlyON site being explored for South Porcupine

A new partnership between children’s programming and a retirement residence is being explored for South Porcupine.

During a Cochrane District Social Services Administration Board (CDSSAB) meeting on Thursday (Nov. 16), Shannon Costello, director of children’s services, said they are working on a partnership with Spruce Hill Lodge, a retirement and assisted living facility. The CDSSAB is the service system manager for EarlyON Child & Family Centres in the region.

“This initiative would not only address a crucial service gap but create a collaborative, intergenerational community hub. The integration of EarlyON at Spruce Hill Lodge will provide a unique platform for programming, fostering meaningful connections between young children and elderly residents,” Costello said.

“And this approach enhances the overall community experience and promotes an understanding between different age groups in a supportive and inclusive environment.”

Intergenerational programming hosted at Spruce Hill Lodge and Cadence Residence in Cochrane has been successful and well attended by residents, Costello said.

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A satellite location for EarlyON programming used to operate out of Golden Avenue Public School prior to 2019. While it was well-attended, Costello said because it was a satellite location, staffing wasn't consistent, and it wasn't available throughout the summer or when there were school closures.

Costello said the centre would alleviate financial stress on the CDSSAB with the EarlyON program proposing to pay rent for the facilities at Spruce Hill Lodge.

“The centre will operate under the current funding allocations provided by the province at 100 per cent and budgeted under the approved budget for the 2024 EarlyON general operating funds,” she said.

“With the board's approval today, administration will begin to establish a partnership agreement with Spruce Hill Lodge.”

The new location could also allow for educational partnerships with the Northern College early childhood education program and Roland Michener Secondary School to allow for co-ops, volunteer opportunities, and possible part-time employment, Costello said.

The location would require renovations such as aesthetic improvements, safety upgrades and creating age-appropriate play areas . Funds from 2023 would be used to begin sourcing materials and equipment for the centre.

Administration would work to open the centre by the end of the first quarter of 2024, Costello said.

Amanda Rabski-McColl, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter,