Ballymoney Community Playgroup has special reason to celebrate this year, as it can boast being established for 40 years.
The local playgroup was one of the first to start up in the area, and has grown from strength to strength attracting mothers and toddlers through its doors each year.
It all began four decades ago when the need for a playgroup was so great that several mothers in Ballymoney decided to start one up.
Forty years on and the local group is still looking after kids five days a week.
Barbara Hill, Deputy Leader and having a staggering 38 years service at Ballmoney Playgroup (Trinity), said: “After passing a diploma in Childhood Studies at Rupert Stanley college in 1974, I worked as a House Mother in Dr Barnados Home in Ballycastle until my first child was born. I then wanted to work on a part-time basis with children, so I applied for the position of Supervisor in Ballymoney and District Community Playgroup. This playgroup had been formed because some parents of young children in the area felt that there wasn’t enough provision in Ballymoney for 3 to 4 year olds.
“I was given the position and I started in September 1978, the playgroup had already been going for about two years.
“Over the years the playgroup has met in four local halls, firstly in The Parish Centre, then a short time in First Ballymoney old hall , a year in Independent Hall while Trinity was being renovated and then up to the present day in Trinity Church Halls.
“The church has kindly given us the use of their children’s room, which we share with children’s church activities. I was supervisor up until June 2013 when I retired from the post, but feel that I;m not just ready to leave a place I love, so I have continued to work 2 days a week.
“I have really enjoyed my time working in playgroup, having benefited from such good working relationships over the years. Our staff team have always been like one big happy family!
“I have met many parents and children over the years and have made many dear friends.”
Along with Barbara, Eileen Elliott also has been a Deputy Leader for an amazing 28 years working in the Ballymoney Playgroup.
She continued: “I first started to go to Ballymoney Playgroup with my eldest son in 1985. I stayed and helped sometimes, it was then I realised that I really wanted to work with children. After my second son was born in 1989, I registered him for playgroup, so once again I went along and helped.
“A job came up for the “Ace worker”, I applied for the job and to my delight I was successful. That was the start of my new journey. By this time both boys were at school and the hours suited me great. I started my new job and I loved every minute of it, the people were so friendly and I really felt comfortable there. The job was only for a year, but I was just happy to be there. After being in playgroup a few months one staff member was leaving to go to another job so a vacancy came up for her job. I applied for the position and I couldn’t believe when the letter came in to say I was successful. I started playgroup and have had many happy years there, well they must have been! (I have been there 28 years).
“A lot has changed over the years with new rules and regulations, but one thing never changed, the closeness and friendliness of all who work there. I have been really blessed.
“When children who came to playgroup are now bringing their children, well, it’s beginning to get a bit scary, but I have no plans to retire just yet. As long as God gives me good health I’ll still be there.”
Michelle Spence is a Preschool Leader and has served 14 years at Ballymoney Community Playgroup.
She added: “I volunteered in playgroup in 2002 when my daughter attended and was very fortunate to be successful in obtaining the post of Playgroup Assistant the following year. In September 2013. I took on the role of Preschool Leader and can honestly say that I am very proud of the playgroup and the staff team. The team work so well together and are not only a great working team but great friends. One of my proudest moments as Leader was this past February when the playgroup achieved an ‘Outstanding’ in our ETI Inspection; this just validates how hard the girls work and how dedicated they are as a team.
“The support we receive from our parents and the wider community is second to none. It is great to watch not only the children’s friendships blooming but also the parents.
“The Committee and staff feel very privileged to be in Trinity Church Halls, they treat us as part of the church family and we value their friendship and support over the years. I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone associated with playgroup both past and present and look forward to the next 40 years.”
Memories - Past and Present
The playgroup are holding a celebratory evening on January 12 2017 with the staff and committee, founding members, previous staff and committee members. The mayor will also be in attendance alongside Barry Thompson from Fuse FM.
Appealing for past members and friends, Amanda Cochrane, Chairperson added: “We are holding a ‘Supper with the Mayor’ evening to mark our 40th anniversary on Thursday, January 12 from 7-9.30pm in The Lounge, Trinity Church Hall, Ballymoney. We are hoping to reach old committee members and friends of the playgroup to please come along and help us celebrate.”
RSVP by January 5 to Amanda Cochrane 07732876651 or Nicola McClure on 07834770075.