by Jennifer Pritchett
Northern News Services
NNSL (NOV 08/96) - Laurette Debogorski brings her two children to the toy lending library and play centre at Weledeh school for support and guidance that she wouldn't get anywhere else.
"Heaven forbid if it ever closed down," she says.
Debogorski is one of an increasing number of Yellowknife families who visit the drop-in centre in search of a positive environment for their children.
They come to get parenting tips and borrow toys they can't afford to buy for their children.
The centre's waiting list is the longest it's ever been, and families are visiting the centre more often this year. There were more than 330 visits by 32 families in October, the busiest the facility has ever been.
The centres at Ecole St. Joseph and Weledeh schools have been also combined this year.
A federal health initiative funds the program's $80,000 annual budget. It's part of a three-year program that ends in March.
"After that, we don't know what will happen," says one of two centre coordinators, Marjorie Matheson-Maund. "We hope our funding is renewed."
Many of the families are identified as "high need" which means they are dealing with certain problems like fetal alcohol syndrome or physically challenged children.
Joanne Chubb, a centre coordinator, says Yellowknife families have always needed extra support, but she isn't sure why families are making more frequent visits this year.
"Parents in Yellowknife tend not to have their own support group," she says. "They are separated from their natural support group and this puts some stress on the family."
Chubb says the workers at the centre don't provide counselling, but instead, talk to the parents about what's troubling them.
"We work on the philosophy that if you help the family as a whole, the child will be a happier person," she says.
Matheson-Maund says the centre's environment provides a healthy atmosphere for both functional and dysfunctional families.
"We have some very functional families that provide great role models for other families," she says.
Debogorski says the centre has helped both her and her children.
"I was just lucky enough to get in the program when I did," she says.