Karen Eilersen is one of the many new-to-Barrie faces that’s becoming quickly a pillar of our community. When she decided to stop commuting in late 1995, it was with the dream to open her own day care centre.
Today, Karen operates an innovative, pleasant, family-centred facility on Harvie Road in Barrie’s south end. Her business, Discovery Child Care Centre, at first glance would seem to be a hectic, still-in-the-working-stages centre with lots of finishing touches to complete it. There is room for 60 children, 15 after school children (ages 6 to 9) and 8 junior and senior kindergarten spaces with hours that run from 7 am to 6 at night with extended hours for parents who need them. Karen is gearing her service for the commuting parent, knowing full well their needs.
But, in between Karen’s 1995 decision and her 1998 opening there’s a story of vision, determination, graciousness, and tenacity that we can all appreciate.
Karen started her business, as many do, under the auspices of the federal government’s self employment program. It’s a 10-month program geared to support small businesses as they get their operations up and running. She used her time to open up in a limited way in her home, all the while looking for a facility in just the right spot.
At least five times Karen experienced the 11th hour throes of signing a lease and having the signback cancel at the last minute. She was selecting her location carefully, to serve south end Barrie, and each cancellation or “fall-through” was devastating. Cedar Pointe, Fairview Rd., Essa Rd., Mapleview Dr., and Victoria Village were all locations which eluded Karen, though each looked initially optimistic .
And yet, this woman stayed polite, and determined. She didn’t lose faith in herself or her idea. And the self employment assistance program came, and finished, with Karen still looking for a location for her business. She was hampered by day care legislation which insisted she could care for only 5 children in her home, and couldn’t hire help and buy insurance for them at the same time. Meanwhile most of the Eilersen home was given over to the day care centre. The family had only the basement and second floor bedrooms to call their own, and even then there was often an infant in a second floor crib being cared for.
It was cause for celebration then when Karen found and negotiated a lease in August, 1998 for the Harvie Road property and its acreage. Her renovations went forth, transforming the huge bungalow into a true children’s facility. Ecological gardens, climbing hills, an outdoor riding area, indoor large equipment area, infant room, kitchen, dining facilities, huge muralled walls in the lower level for the after school program… Karen’s dream had to be realized in less than eight weeks.
When Discovery Child Care Centre opened this fall, to my way of thinking, Karen Eilersen is the one who deserved the huge accolades. Yes, the builders were wonderful. Yes, the staff is terrific. But Karen and her family have paid the price while they waited for the right location. We’re lucky to have an individual with this kind of vision come into our midst to make a difference.