Editor's note: This is the latest in the Co-op Cares series that celebrates organizations doing great things in the southeast region. Thanks to the Southern Plains Co-op for sponsoring this series, and for all they do in the southeast.
For more than 20 years, families in the Oxbow area have been turning to the Expressway Family Centre for programming, activities and learning, all while having fun.
The non-profit organization has been providing free or low-cost programming to members of the community, assisting with family support.
Stephanie Barnes has been the program co-ordinator since last September, but she was far from a stranger to the family centre’s programs when she took the job. She was a board member for two years, and she started taking her kids to the centre when her family moved to Oxbow four years ago.
“It’s a place where parents can bring their kids. It’s a place where you can come and feel welcome if you’re having a good day or a bad day. It’s a good place to meet people. It’s just a good place to interact. It helps prepare you, give ideas for parenting or schooling, or other things to do with kids,” said Barnes.
The centre is located at 609 Prospect Avenue. It had been located at the Oxbow Prairie Horizons School, but had to vacate the building because the school couldn’t have outside visitors due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We moved into the new facility, and we’ve been making it work for the past year,” said Barnes.
The Expressway Family Centre is always a busy place. Activity slows down in the winter months, since people aren’t as eager to head out. Spring and summer months are typically busier.
Drop-in and play is offered Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, with a tonne of different free activities. Little chefs, action art, spring time at the library, crafting, outdoor play have been offered.
A first aid refresher is scheduled for this week.
The centre has been working with the Bow Valley Villa care home on a reading program. A pre-kindergarten class, a Grade 1 class, a Grade 6 class and 17 kids from ages four to 10 have been participating and interacting with the villa’s residents.
“We’ve been doing pen pal letters back and forth, and that’s gone over really well,” said Barnes.
The family centre will partner with the Oxbow Swimming Pool in June for swimming and the Oxbow Rink in the winter for skating.
“We try to offer mostly free in the winter, so that no matter what your economic status is, you can participate,” she said.
With grants, board members and employees, they have been able to implement different programming and switch some of the different things they have been doing.
They were planning to have some bigger events for their 20th anniversary in 2020, but because of COVID-19, those ideas were scuttled.
Expressway Family Centre had to shut down for a couple of weeks early in the spring due to an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in the Oxbow area, but it is open again.
The people who have accessed Expressway have provided very good feedback, Barnes said. Programs had to be adapted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with some offered online, but the public is glad they can still turn to the family centre.