The Glebe Parents’ Day Care (GPDC) began in 1972 and by August of that year was incorporated. In May 1973 GPDC found a permanent home in the basement of the Glebe Community Centre. Daycare alum Maggie Kerkoff remembers: “I worked for 13 years at a hip and happening place called Glebe Parents’ Daycare. It was the 70s. Wide-legged jeans, broomstick skirts, cotton tops and dresses from India were all staples in the daycare worker’s wardrobe.”
This was long before the current community centre renovations and at that time the daycare space was shared with other users. Every evening the daycare furniture was put away in a small room and every morning it came back out to set up for a new day. The space was a venue for parties, coffee houses and other community events.
The environment was substandard but the care was first rate. Kerkoff recalls that there were only a few places like it in Ottawa. Not only was it a cooperative with everyone being paid the same wage, it was also a joy to work with such professionals. “The workers, for the most part, had all graduated with their Early Childhood Education diploma. Some had teaching degrees and some were nurses. All had a professional background, which served well in the daycare, and all were the most caring and professional folks you would want helping to encourage the development of the youngsters in their care.
“The children received two snacks and a hot, nutritious lunch each day. Outdoor play was very important, no matter the weather. Learning through play, both inside and outside, ensures the children were ready for the challenges of school when that time came. After-school programs for school-aged children offered a safe place for children to continue their learning in a fun and safe environment.”
In 1978 GPDC unionized under CUPE and joined the Ottawa Federation of Parents’ Childcare promoting quality, non-profit childcare.
Parents even had a unique opportunity to contribute to their child’s care. “In fact, as a parent you were expected to put in a certain number of hours each week to help with things such as cleaning the toys, sharing unique talents like music and art and reading with the children.”
However, staff and parents had a dream for a better daycare space, a purpose-built daycare. There were none like this in Ottawa back then. Most childcare facilities were relegated to church and community centre basements. Not the ideal environment for the care of young children.
In the early 80s a federal funding grant of $600,000 was secured but as no location in the Glebe was zoned for non-profit daycare, the funding was returned unused. The planned redevelopment of Lansdowne Park in the mid 80s offered a perfect location. And so the fundraising began. Through Sneezy Waters’ “coffee houses,” Saturday afternoon movie showings and harvest suppers, the day care raised $170,00, and, in time, additional government funding was secured. Finally, an architect parent drew up the plans with the staffs’ expert input and we were off!
In the summer of 1990, the GPDC opened the first purpose-built daycare in Ottawa; a flagship for childcare in Ottawa.
Kerkoff recalls the support day care provided for parents long before extended parental leave. “It would be many years before mothers were given the option of staying home for one year with their babies. That meant that there were babies as young as six weeks who were brought each day to the daycare so that their parents could work. This is a fact that would be quite shocking for the parents of today.” In fact today federal politicians are working on a national childcare program, ECE is recognized as a profession and both moms and dads can take parental leave. A lot really has changed in 50 years!
The legacy of the daycare continues for future generations. “Friendships have been forged among the staff and parents. The children of the original parents at Glebe Parents’ Day Care have brought their children to the centre, and now their grandchildren also attend.”
Happy 50th anniversary GPDC! Here’s to the next 50 years of serving children and families, may the future be bright and may many more memories be made.
The GPDC’s main centre on Fifth Avenue cares for infants, toddlers and preschool children and houses a licensed home childcare program. GPDC has school age satellite programs in Hopewell, Muchmor and First Avenue schools.
Janice Cameron-Caluori, ECE, B Ed, worked at the Glebe Parents’ Day Care from 1980 to 2018.