At Lambrick Park preschool, fundraising might go toward painting supplies or crafts, toys and occasionally, slightly more practical fixtures. Rhonda Sylven points with pride to their toilet, a miniature loo perfect for kids still a bit nervous about falling in.
It’s got toilets covered, but this Saturday the non-profit preschool in Saanich hosts its major fundraising drive to bring in about half of the $7,500 it needs each year to close the gap on operating costs.
“Fundraising events build community and doing it for the kids is easy,” said Sylven, the full-time early childhood educator at the preschool.
“We get some subsidy from the government, but it hasn’t increased in nine years. That is challenging for sure. And we don’t turn away any families.”
The co-op operating model relies heavily on volunteer parent participation, both in the classroom and running the preschool as a business.
Parents take on a duty day about once every month to help staff with the kids for a morning.
“I come in and hang out. It’s great. It’s just playing with the kids and the mess isn’t in your home,” said Sheree McCall, a recent on-duty parent.
A non-profit for 41 years but originally started in the late 1960s, long-running Lambrick preschool depends on parents maintaining its financial health for the next group that takes over, typically every few years.
“A key reason why it’s so successful is … is learning through playing – they learn to share, build relationships and how to co-operate,” Sylven said. “The same is happening for parents who run the preschool … the executive votes on budgets and they learn to run a business.”
Andrew Pitre, a parent on the executive committee, attended Lambrick preschool 30 years ago and part of a growing cohort of families returning with their kids.
“I stood on the same wall and sang the same preschool song as my kids,” he said. “There are friends from preschool I’m still adult friends with now.”
Pitre said the co-op model encourages parents become engaged in their kids’ education, but more so, it helps encourage long-term volunteerism. His two kids have gone through the school.
“I quickly saw the benefits. You get involved in your child’s education. It integrates parents, teachers and children and sets the foundation for learning,” said Pitre. “It requires extra work and parents are busy, but once you’ve done a volunteer shift you feel good. Giving back is a positive experience.”
“The families that come here end up on PACs and running events at schools,” Sylven added. “It’s where citizenship starts.”
The Lambrick Park Preschool fundraiser is Nov. 16, 6:30 to 9 p.m., with a silent and live auction, live music and appetizers at the Gordon Head United Church, 4201 Tyndall Ave. Tickets are $20 at the door.