Ten years of family fun

Aki Dyke
Aki Dyke went exploring at the Family Center's birthday party last Friday. Photos by Ralph Stewart

By Pat Waring - December 14, 2006

It was playtime as usual at the Family Center last Friday afternoon, but this day had a special added attraction. While toddlers tumbled and explored and older youngsters made themselves at home in the playhouse, built towers with wooden blocks, or sat at low tables to color or read, parents and staff members chatted beside a festive birthday cake. Friday marked the 10th anniversary of the center, sponsored by Martha's Vineyard Community Services, which offers a range of services to families with children from infancy through age six. Pre-natal and pre-adoption services are available too.

Located in a big spacious room at the Martha's Vineyard Regional High School with its own entrance and play yard outside, the Family Center is not only a haven where children can have fun and interact but also a rich resource for parents who want information and support to make it easier to care for their little ones.

Chloe Hoyt and Alley Estrella
Chloe Hoyt (left) and Alley Estrella concentrate at the kid-style computer, one of many activities for older children at the center.

Weekly activities include several playgroups, a day each week for parents with babies up to one year old to gather, and casual drop-in times. There is even an early evening playgroup just for dads and their children. Every Friday morning parents can get together for coffee and conversation, to share insights and concerns about raising children in a quiet setting, while childcare is provided. Group meetings for families with adopted children are held regularly as are gatherings for "waiting parents," those who are considering or planning for adoption. Along with regularly scheduled workshops on specific topics, parents can gain valuable information just by talking with other parents and staff members at the center, or browsing the bulletin boards which are packed with ideas and resources.

"I wish we had this when our children were little," said Debbie Milne, as she watched the youngsters playing as their moms chatted. Ms. Milne is director of the Early Childhood Programs of Martha's Vineyard Community Services which administers the Family Center. The program is supported by state funding and all services are free.

The youngsters reluctantly left their games and toys for a few minutes to belt out an enthusiastic chorus of "Happy Birthday," then everyone enjoyed chunks of cake with apple juice.