'Our Place saved my life': Kitchener child and parent support program shutting down

Our Place Family Resource and Early Years Centre in Kitchener is shutting its doors at the end of June after more than 40 years of service.

Officials with the program said provincial funding has decreased significantly and it’s not financially sustainable for the organization to continue operating.

“We just couldn't continue sustaining operations past that time,” Jennifer Jordan, executive director of Our Place said. “We are proud of the legacy that we will leave behind once the doors close.”

All 14 staff will receive employment support services like resume writing and career development to help them find new work in the region.

“Everyone is really upset of the fact that we're just not able to continue the work that we've been doing,” Theresa Himburg, the lead peer health worker at Our Place said.

For over 40 years the community-based, not-for-profit resource acted as a mobile operation, offering accessible social and educational programming for children and their families in the region. Programs included drop-in early learning programs, parenting and outreach resources, perinatal support and a toy lending library.

Our Place launched in 1979 and moved into First Mennonite Church in Kitchener in 1982. It operated out of St. Francis from 2003 to 2019, before moving into its current home at The Family Centre in 2019.

Our Place is hoping another local group will pick up its Storks Secrets Program, which offers Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder peer support.

Participants from the program said it helped them find a sense of purpose after giving birth.

“Our Place saved my life,” Melynda Pomeroy, who participated in the program said. “It gave me a support system, it gave me friends, it gave me a place to go when my son was really young.”

Pomeroy believes there is not another program like Stork Secrets in the area.

“I can't name another one,” Pomeroy said.

“We hope that they're able to find something else in the community and that they find us out in the community doing a lot of the work similar to what we've been able to do here at Our Place,” Himburg said.

According to the Ministry of Education, funding for EarlyON Child and Family Centres in the Region increased by approximately $300,000 dollars in 2022.

“As the service system managers for the child care and the early years, CMSMs and DSSABs initiate, sustain and monitor local planning and development. This may involve the closing of programs and the re-opening of others according to local community needs,” the Ministry said in an email to CTV News.

Jordan said the community can still access other EarlyOn locations in the region, and hopes to find a new home for the Stork Secrets program before shutting down on June 30.