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Jewish daycare centre in danger of closing

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Gan Yeladim Day Care Centre
Gan Yeladim Day Care Centre

For the parents who send their children to Gan Yeladim Day Care Centre, the news was about as bad as it gets. The Day Care Centre, in operation at the Beth Emeth Bais Yehuda Synagogue since 1980, is in danger of shutting its doors for the last time at the end of July.

Parents and staff were informed June 1 that declining enrolment has led to the possible closing of the child-care facility. But parents have formed two committees to try to save the non-profit day care.

One committee will focus on marketing,  the other on fundraising, said Jonathan Parker, president of the board. Current enrolment sits at a little more than 40, though there are spaces for 55 youngsters, he told The CJN.

Based on the number of empty spaces looking ahead, Gan Yeladim was not financially viable going forward, Parker said.

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Getting the word out and raising money would give the facility some breathing room and allow it to hire a new executive director, who has already been interviewed, he said.

“We’ve looked at our books and based on current enrolment, we can project that we’ll need to  hire a new director and allow her to set up a situation where we would not need to rely on our parents” to raise funds, he said. “She’s confident that if we can guarantee her some time, she would turn it around.”

According to documents filed with the Canada Revenue Agency, Gan Yeladim earned $16,000 in the year ending Oct. 31, 2015, after recording losses totalling $68,000 in the previous two years.

Parents pay about $1,000 a month for full-day care for children starting at 18 months up to those junior kindergarten age. That’s about the median for similar facilities in the city of Toronto, according to a report on daycare across the country, released last December by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

But the fee is on the low end for Jewish daycares, said Parker, noting the facility provides kosher food and hires Hebrew- and Russian-speaking staff.

Gan Yeladim bills itself as offering “quality non-profit childcare” with kosher lunches and snacks and a Jewish environment for children. Children are taught about Jewish holidays and history, hear stories about Israel and are taught to say blessings,

Contacted just after staff was informed of the possible demise of the day care center, interim supervisor Lianne Spiegelman said, “we’re still in shock.”

“The parents are very upset,” she said. “We want it to succeed.”

Batya Grundland is a parent of a 19-month-old toddler currently at the centre. Two of her other children have already graduated from the program.

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She and Parker traced Gan Yeladim’s difficulties to the death five years of ago of then-executive director Shelley Wise.

“She had a real vision,” Grundland said. “She’s been hard to replace.”

“They’ve struggled to find a director over the last few years who could play a leadership role,” said Grundland, who has served on the facility’s board of directors.

That’s a shame, she continued, because Gan Yeladim is such a great place to leave your child. “It feels like community, like family and they feel loved.”

Parker, who also has a son at Gan Yeladim, said he’s hopeful the parents’ fundraising and marketing efforts will bear fruit. “I can’t state it’s going to close. My son is there. I don’t want it to close.”

“I’ve never seen a place as warm,” Parker said.

At this point, the daycare’s future remains in doubt, but “were not throwing in the towel,” he said.

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