MLA and long-term care facility owner rallying to start daycare in Belfast

A long term care facility in Belfast, P.E.I. is under expansion and its owner and a local MLA are considering starting a daycare there.

A daycare could open next to the Dr. John Gillis Memorial Lodge

The Dr. John Gillis Memorial Lodge has been open for 30 years and is currently undergoing expansion to its facilities, including a new pavilion that PC MLA Darlene Compton would like to make a daycare. (Nicole Williams/CBC)

A long term care facility in Belfast, P.E.I. is under expansion and its owner and a local MLA are considering starting a daycare there.

The Dr. John Gillis Memorial Lodge has been around for 30 years.

In that time, the private care facility has undergone several expansions: one of the latest ones being a new pavilion that's now connected to the main building.

It was originally built to be an event space for the facility, but former administrator of the lodge and PC MLA Darlene Compton says she and the owner would like to make it a daycare.

'There's definitely a need'

Compton has been working with the owner to get the idea off the ground and says it's still in its early stages.

However, she says there's already been a lot of interest from the local community, not only because of wait times for other day cares, but because of how much more accessible it would be for Belfast residents.

"This has started out with a reach out on social media," said Compton. "There's definitely a need. The closest [daycares] would be Montague or Stratford." 

A boost to Belfast

Compton says since those posts, about 35 people have expressed interest in registering.

The new pavilion at the lodge is almost finished construction. Compton says if the space were to become a daycare, they would likely be able to register about 35 children. (Nicole Williams/CBC)

She says there's a lot of things still to figure out: including budget, management and other requirements that would make it a viable daycare, but says it would be worth the effort.

"After the threat of school closures at Belfast Consolidated this past year, the whole community is really engaged in ensuring that we can grow our community, and what better way than to provide a daycare," Compton said.

'We've been asking for it for quite a few years now'

Charlene Hebert is a resident care worker at the lodge and says there are many staff members, like herself, who would benefit from a daycare close by.

"We have a fairly young staff with a lot of young children," said Hebert. "We've been asking for it for quite a few years now."

"My baby is 13 months and it was quite a challenge to find a daycare for him at the time that I needed to come back to work," she said.

The pavilion is still under construction but is expected to be finished in a few weeks. 

By that time, Compton says she hopes to have a better idea about the specific demand for spaces at a local day care, and whether it has a good chance of opening in that location.