Just Add Sharing

Like most kids, I was fascinated by toys that did not belong to me. Apparently, some things never change.

Every time I visit the Toy Lending Library (operated by the Kelowna Childcare Society, located at # 4 - 1890 Ambrosi Street) I have to fight my impulse to pull all the items off the shelves. The back room is packed from floor to ceiling with tidy bins containing every kind of sturdy learning toy, game and book imaginable and big toys like a 3-person tricycle. I struggle to behave like a professional in the presence of so much fun, but I always succumb to the lure of Tinker Toys.

Unlike my childhood library, you'll never be shushed at the Toy Lending Library. Cindy Polachic, the Kelowna Child Care Resource Program Referral receptionist who performs double duty as chief toy librarian, is welcoming, efficient, patient…and a lot of fun to be around.  “At first we have to tell parents it’s okay for their children to make noise,” says Polachic. “After they visit a couple of times, they relax. They are proud of their library and they take care of the items that they borrow.”

The outcome of this co-operative resource for families is a steady supply of items that promote healthy childhood development, and that their children will never grow weary of. There is even a collection of books on parenting and behavior, which Polachic says is one of their most popular resources. Access to the library is available to families for only thirty dollars per year, a fraction of what most families spend purchasing toys. Items can be borrowed for four weeks. When a service meets a community need as well as the toy library does, it does not remain a secret. This resource is shared among many because families simply cannot stop raving about it.

For parents wondering what to do with purchased toys that their children no longer use, the library also offers a solution. “Donations of good quality toys and play equipment are always needed,” says Executive Director Lynn Burgat. Burgat and her staff have been busy editing the most recent edition of Okanagan Parenting Magazine, a high quality free publication produced by the organization and distributed at no charge to parents. The toy library and magazine are only two of their wide spectrum of supports and services available to both parents, childcare providers, businesses and other non-profits.

Every staff member wears multiple hats, and meeting all the needs can be challenging. Recently, United Way helped the society find just the right person to help grow the Toy Lending Library beyond its current capacity. Sarah Stang, a librarian at UBC’s Okanagan Campus, was thrilled to lend her expertise and add the title of “toy librarian” to her already impressive resume.

“I was blown away,” says Stang. “This is one of the best small resource libraries I’ve ever seen in my life.” Her passion for user-centered libraries, and knowledge of the complex layers of lending systems, are an invaluable gift to a non-profit operating on a lean budget. Stang offers strategies to increase efficiency and resources without adding unmanageable expenses.

It all adds up to more families and more fun. Change is starting here because everyone benefits when people share their resources and skills. The Kelowna Childcare Society is a United Way Community Partner Agency. More information on the Kelowna Childcare Society and the Toy Lending Library is available at www.kelownachildcare.com/

To find out how you can be part of change, visit www.unitedwaycso.com

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About the Author

The mission of United Way is to improve lives and build community by engaging individuals and mobilizing collective action.

We call this our Community Impact Mission. Community impact is about achieving meaningful, long-term improvements to the quality of life in Canadian communities, by addressing not just the symptoms of problems but also getting at the root causes. It’s about making fundamental changes to community conditions.

United Way is achieving this mission by moving people from poverty to possibility, promoting healthy people and strong communities, and supporting all that kids can be.

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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