Carrie-Anne McPhee, program director of the Yukon Family Literacy Centre (YFLC), treasures a lot of things about her work: Running into young users of the program at the grocery store, dance performances from excited toddlers on the centre’s stage and the tooth marks left by infants on her old name tag.
McPhee said many of those treasured memories are tied directly to the centre’s location in Whitehorse’s Canada Games Centre (CGC) but it seems that the centre’s days in the space are numbered as the city is reclaiming it for use as offices.
The family literacy centre, a program run under the Yukon Literacy Coalition, was recently given notice that its 12-year tenure in the games centre would be coming to an end effective Nov. 10. McPhee said this didn’t leave enough time for the centre to run its usual fall programming and then leave. She noted that an extension until January was offered, in response to a request for the centre to remain until the spring, but this still wouldn’t have allowed time for fall programming and then packing up to move. The prospect of moving out in the dead of winter also wasn’t feasible.
McPhee described the August email stating that the centre would have to move as “unexpected.”
City of Whitehorse representative Oshea Jephson confirmed that the city will be occupying the space as early as December. He cited the need for staff space as the city grows.
“We recognize a number of individuals in the community will miss the space at the Canada Games Centre but the city is looking at all the ways it can support a smooth transition for the YFLC,” he wrote in a Sept. 5 email.
Sitting in the long concrete-walled room on the second floor of the CGC that is lined with toys, books, places to sit and a kid-sized drama stage, McPhee explained the role of the Family Literacy Centre.
“Our mandate is that we provide families a safe and welcoming and comfortable place to learn together,” she said.
“It might look like having a cup of tea and doing a craft with your children. But to us, it looks like loads of embedded learning.”
All of the centre’s programming is offered free of charge.
With accessibility to all kinds of people as a major principle of the way it has been run, McPhee said the centre is a part of the lives of people from across the territory as thousands of people come through the space each year.
She described the benefits of the current location including offering something to do for families with other children in swimming lessons, hockey practices or other activities. McPhee added that the centre has also served as a gathering place for families from communities outside Whitehorse as they await the arrival of a newborn.
McPhee said the centre provided an important social role for her before she ever worked there, as it was the first place she visited with her daughter in an effort to meet other parents and children after moving to Whitehorse.
“We’re actively looking for a new home. And we’ll find a new place but this is a really big loss to us,” she said.
The notice about the upcoming closure of the Canada Games Centre space posted to the literacy coalition’s Facebook page notes that programming will continue at the Pioneer Hotel and elsewhere in the Yukon when possible.
McPhee says more pop-up programming is being planned at other locations and activities are ongoing at the Pioneer Hotel in Shipyards Park which is home to the literacy centre’s summer programs. She added that the literacy centre also plans to extend its outreach programs and work outside of Whitehorse while seeking a new permanent home.
McPhee said the literacy centre is eager to get into anything from an interim space to a permanent new home and can work with a variety of layouts. While already exploring some possibilities, she said anyone with ideas about a new home can contact her or the literacy coalition.
The Family Literacy Centre had not been paying any rent on the space in the CGC so McPhee said there is sure to be financial implications for the non-profit organization as well following the move to a new space.
Jephson told the News that the city is taking steps including exploring pop-up literacy centre programs at the CGC in the future. He noted that the Family Literacy Centre has asked to meet with the mayor to share their concerns. McPhee said that one goal of this meeting is to secure an extension of the literacy centre’s lease of the summer space at the Pioneer Hotel in Shipyards Park, citing its importance following the loss of the main centre.
Despite the loss of the space, McPhee is both grateful for the time the centre had there and optimistic about the future.
“Really, I can’t stress enough that even though we’re going to lose this space, we’re going to take our culture with us, and wherever we end up, we will still be that welcoming and warm and safe place for people,” she said.
To cap off the Family Literacy Centre’s time at the CGC, a celebration is being planned for Nov. 4. McPhee said a huge giveaway of books and other items is planned.
Contact Jim Elliot at firstname.lastname@example.org