The NO CHILD TURNED AWAY project, quite simply, responds to the demand for our program beyond what our funding provides.
Did you know that between 2006 and 2016 there was a 35% increase in the number of children under four in our immediate community? And why not? This is a great neighbourhood for raising kids!
East End Children’s Centre was founded by local parents in 1985 and served local families responsively for two decades before the East York child population boom in 2010. By 2011, we were experiencing a massive increase in local children, families and caregivers who needed us and we needed to meet their needs while continuing to deliver safe and relevant programming at our Kimbourne and Terry Fox Drop-in Centres. We tried offering our program in two sessions. 50 children from 9 to 10:30 am and another set of 50 from 10:45 to 12. We served more children but we weren’t giving them a quality experience.
In 2014 we returned to the single session model, locking our doors when occupancy limits were reached. Children were turned away every day. Parents complained. Some of them wrote us letters telling us how demoralizing it was for them and their children to find themselves outside a locked door. Our board of directors read every word written about the devastation caused. Many families gave up on us. They weren’t prepared to subject themselves and their children to the stress of trying and not succeeding to get to our programs before the doors were locked.
In 2015, our board of directors decided: enough. We were going to find the funds to expand our programs. We called our program expansion campaign NO CHILD TURNED AWAY. In 2016, a petition was signed by over 700 community members. Meetings were held with our (then) city councillor, Janet Davis, and the general manager of Toronto Children’s Services. We’re so fortunate to have people at the City of Toronto who really care about families and children. But they were (and still are) undergoing an extremely complex service re-organization and couldn’t entertain our request for a program expansion, as much as they would have liked to. Our board managed to fundraise, through a gala and donations, enough money to fund two additional days a week to our schedule during the chilly months of fall, winter and early spring of 2018-19.
In 2017, the first year we piloted the NO CHILD TURNED AWAY project, we increased our child visits by 1035, or 21! From 2017 through April 2019, during the cold fall and winter months we turned NO CHILDREN AWAY on Mondays and Fridays at both our sites and our program reached capacity less often on the other days of operation. It’s been so successful that the community came together at our recent Boots & Bling Gala, to kick off the fundraising for NO CHILD TURNED AWAY days in 2019!
Our next event, Diner After Dark will raise funds to continue the project in 2020.
Please keep this program alive with your donations! We accept cheques, cash and online donations here.