Drayton Valley Boys and Girls Club announces closure amid town's struggling economy

Eryn Whorpole’s eight-year-old son walks to the Drayton Valley Boys and Girls Club every day after school. It’s been his routine for the past three years but it will soon be coming to an end. 

The organization is closing in August after struggling to recruit and retain qualified staff, said Sherri Senger, the president of the Wetaskiwin Boys and Girls Club.

The Wetaskiwin chapter oversees the Drayton Valley locations. 

Working parents, like Whorpole, are worried — they don’t know where they’ll send their kids after school starting in September. 

“Without [after-school care] I wouldn’t be able to work; I’d be a stay at home mom,” Whorpole said. “[Childcare] is so limited around here. People are concerned about their jobs and with what’s going to happen with their kids.”

One of the perks of the Boys and Girls Club is its affordability, Whorpole said. The working mom pays about $310 per month for after-school care, which she believes is an average rate. 

The Boys and Girls Club of Drayton Valley, which opened about five years ago, currently supports 44 families. 

In addition to running after-school programs in Drayton Valley schools, the organization cares for kids during teacher professional development days and hosts day camps in the summer. 

This year’s camp will run all summer before the club shuts down permanently on Aug. 31. 

Drayton Valley mayor, Michael Doerksen, says he’s concerned with the town’s economic state. (Kory Siegers/CBC)

According to Senger, Drayton Valley’s Boys and Girls Club has struggled with staff restrictions for a while.

“Our number one priority is services for kids, but if we don’t have the right staff with the proper level of education, we can’t meet licensing standards. Then, we can’t offer services,” Senger said.

She believes the town’s lagging economy is partially to blame.

Drayton Valley has “been hit hard economically and we just can’t get qualified people,” Senger said.

The town’s mayor, Michael Doerksen, is also concerned about Drayton Valley’s economic state. He says limited economic opportunity has driven people out of the community. 

“Coffee shop talk is generally ‘what businesses have closed down this week?'” Doerksen said.

Senger said her organization hasn’t heard directly from concerned parents, but the Boys and Girls Club is working with town officials and Family and Community Social Services to find alternative childcare opportunities for affected families. 

“We’re hoping to identify a local program operator who has the desire to continue to deliver the quality of service that we’ve been providing to the children and their families,” Senger said. 

Whorpole has called multiple childcare facilities in Drayton Valley, but she’s had no luck finding childcare for September. 

“The last couple of times I’ve contacted them, there has been no availability, not for after-school care,” Whorpole said.

Plus, most daycares in the area only offer services for children younger than her son, she said.

If Whorpole doesn’t find a new centre for her son, she and her husband will have to get creative.

In a worst case scenario, Whorpole’s son will hang out at his mom’s workplace, the local Ford dealership, after school every day until Whorpole’s husband picks him up.  

“That’s kind of the only thing I’ve thought of at this point,” Whorpole said. “It’s kind of scary. I don’t want my child to have to come to work with me for a long period of time.”

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