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3,600 family visits later, PLASP's EarlyON at Shelter Bay P.S. celebrates one year of service

Children with staff at the PLASP Shelter Bay EarlyON Centre
Having celebrated over 50 birthdays, hosted dozens of community potlucks, and having helped spark lasting friendships between hundreds of families, PLASP’s EarlyON Centre at Shelter Bay P.S. is celebrating its one year anniversary as a community hub for families in Meadowvale.  

The centre officially opened its doors to the public in September 2018, providing free drop-in programs for families with children up to six years of age. Children and caregivers enjoy play-based learning activities and gain experience with routines that prepare them for the eventual transition to school, while enjoying support from EarlyON staff who help them access community resources.

Since then, the centre has grown to become a home away from home, with staff, parents and children alike celebrating important milestones for children together, and sharing the best of their cultures with each other.  

“Grandparents and extended families come in to celebrate birthdays,” said Family Support Facilitator Sarah Abad. “People bring in their own celebratory customs, and share their favourite recipes and dishes.”

Throughout the first year, there have been over 3,600 family visits. Families come to the program for a number of reasons, including making friends, sharpening English skills, and accessing community resources or workshops in addition to preparing their children for school, and learning more about healthy development of children.

“Most of our visitors are families who are newcomers to Canada, and the EarlyON is where they’ve met new friends and people to bond with,” said Curriculum Manager Diane Phu. “The centre has a very unique way of bringing families together through the responsibilities of raising a child, while helping both groups find a sense of belonging in the community.”

The sense of community connectedness is especially felt by parent Swabhi Nekkalapudi, who has been visiting the centre with her three-year-old son Shanmukh every day for six months. Arriving to Mississauga a year ago from Utah, she had no family or connections in the community.

She credits the centre with helping her and her son develop new friendships in the area, and with helping her son get prepared for school. “He’s communicating with everyone, before that he was very quiet,” she said. “I’ve met so many people here.”

The friendships have also extended beyond the centre, with many families meeting up, socializing and sharing books outside of program hours.

“All families deserve support in raising their children and the relationships they build through the EarlyON program will help shape the rest of their lives,” said Phu. “Giving children the best start in life involves more than just developing gross motor and language skills, it also involves helping entire families feel like they are connected with the greater community.”

The Shelter Bay EarlyON Centre is open for drop in visits from Monday to Friday, between 9:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. The centre is located at 6735 Shelter Bay Rd., Mississauga.

A child with PLASP EarlyON staff

A visiting family at the PLASP Shelter Bay EarlyON

PLASP EarlyON staff with PLASP CEO Lynn Hiebert

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