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Toy lending library holds grand opening

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The new Kiniwazison Toy Lending Library at Seine River held its grand opening yesterday and organizer Bonnie Johnson has been very pleased with the community’s response to it so far.

“I am a bit nervous about [Tuesday],” Johnson had admitted Monday. “The library has been open since August but Tuesday is the big deal. It is the official opening of the library.”

Although the idea for the toy library had been in the works for some time, it finally came to fruition was under the direction of band member Frances Kabatay.

“We had received information from the Northwestern Health Unit about the ‘Healthy Babies/Healthy Children’ program,” Kabatay said. “We wanted to bring that program into the community so through the First Nations we received funding to start it up, as well as the toy lending library.”

Receiving $25,000 in early August for the toy lending library, Kabatay used most of the money to buy the things needed for the program.

“We used a lot of the money to buy equipment and toys,” she noted. “All that was left was to find a place to set it all up. We finally decided on housing the program in the adult learning centre.”

The library was created to give families there a place where they could bring their children to play, or learn parenting skills and techniques.

In addition to the toys available, things like car seats also can be borrowed for those families who may not have access to them.

“I really think those are the best thing we have on hand right now,” Kabatay remarked. “There are a lot of families here who don’t have car seats for their cars.

“We can give them one to use, and that is probably one of the best things we do through this program.”

The toy library also offers families a number of different activities and classes to participate in.

“We offer an arts and crafts program, a nobody’s perfect parenting course, and a traditional native kitchen workshop,” said Johnson.

With a background in child care, Johnson has been happy taking on the challenge of running the toy library on her own.

“I’ve worked with children all of my life,” she noted. “I seem to be a child magnet, which is good under the circumstances. I am working pretty much on my own but we are looking to hire two people for the family home visits.

“These visits are going to give parents some help on how to nurture their children,” she explained.

Since opening in August, the toy library already has attracted 15 memberships and more than 40 people a week are using the facility.

“On Monday and Thursday nights, we have approximately 30 people coming and going,” Johnson said. “It is $15 for a one-year membership, and that covers all the programs and activities that are held at the library.”

Although the toy library is geared toward children aged one to six, Johnson said she’s been surprised by the range of ages of the people using it.

“We have had older children coming in and using the toys,” she remarked. “Some teenagers have come in to use the balls that we have at the building.

“We have even had some of the parents playing with the toys here when they dropped off their children. If you could only see them, it is quite hilarious,” she smiled.

Band chief John Kabatay was on hand for the grand opening yesterday to cut the ribbon.

“We are planning on having an elder blessing the new building, and I have also invited a lot of other reserves to come to the [grand opening],” Johnson had said Monday.

“I am hoping the event will bring in more memberships.”

With the positive feedback Johnson has received so far, she’s hopeful the toy library will be a success in the community and a much-needed resource for parents there.

“I have gotten so much support that it has been really great,” Johnson said. “I think everyone is very pleased with the library. We really needed something positive in the community for a change.”

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