Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The Region of Queens Municipality (RQM) has agreed to give the Queens Daycare Association (QDA) $30,000, $20,000 less than the $50,000 the group had been asking for.
Scott Christian, a board member and the treasurer of the QDA, had made a presentation to council on February 9, updating the members on the association's current situation and future plans.
In it, he delivered the QDA's ask for $50,000 to help with overrun costs, - currently in the region of $130,000 - from the construction of a new, 102.2-square-metre infant care facility that is being built.
The group also was requesting $30,000 each year for the next three years to help with operating costs.
Following a disclosure that the QDA had been donated more than $150,000, at its March 23 meeting the RQM council denied the $50,000 request. It agreed only to provide $30,000, and for this year only.
"I went prepared to support the motion, but having learned of their recent generous gift, I could no longer support the ask," said RQM Mayor Darlene Norman. "The $30,000 operational ask went through, however, just for one year as we can't commit money going into future years.
Christian conceded the organization has been successful in its fundraising efforts and said that he appreciated all the donations that have come in, but he suggested the need is still great.
"We were disappointed that the $50,000 didn't go through, I won't say I wasn't disappointed about that," he admitted. "It has made life more challenging for us. But, with that said, we are grateful for the $30,000," he added.
As well as the cost overrun for the construction of the infant daycare, Christian referred to a number of challenges, including the recent introduction of the pre-primary programs to schools that have taken away a significant portion of the association's attendees, COVID-19, and taking over the ownership of the old Mount Pleasant School in 2019 after the region declared it surplus and sold it to the QDA for $1.
Since taking ownership of the building, the QDA has spent more than $70,000 in necessary maintenance with another $50,000 to $80,000 required in the next few years.
The association intends to continue to explore fundraising opportunities from all levels of government and businesses. For example, it has launched a GoFundMe account on the internet through which people can make donations. Since it is a non-profit charitable organization, tax receipts for donations are available.
Meanwhile, going forward the association is looking to create a stronger bond with RQM and its council.
"We want to explore, leverage and continue to build on a collaborative relationship with the region, because they are a big part of in-kind resources," said Christian. "We also want them to promote the daycare, making it a part of the community profile, when they are trying to attract new families here. I think there is a lot of synergy that we can explore between the current council, region and us."
Norman indicated she recognizes that the daycare is crucial to the region.
"I believe, for young families who are both working, it's very important. Many people moving into our community do not have family or friend connections here," she said. "There will always be people that have a few people they tend to in their homes, but, if you are new to a community, then you look at a recognized, licenced daycare."
The mayor added that the QDA is the only licensed daycare facility in Queens County, and because it is licensed it is also government-subsidized meaning more people can afford to send their children there. Since many of Queens residents are people working at minimum wage, or slightly above, it's important to give parents an opportunity to get out in the workforce. Having an affordable daycare plays a large role in that, she said.