Brooks Toy Library set to celebrate 40th anniversary

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BRUCE PARKER
Brooks Bulletin

Brooks & District Child Development Society, commonly known as the Brooks Toy Library and Family Resource Centre, marks its 40th anniversary this year.
A date has not been set but an anniversary celebration will be held sometime this summer.
The organization was given a license Nov. 22, 1979 and renovations followed to a space upstairs in the Community Cultural Centre.
At the time a nursery school and day care was operating out of the Community Cultural Centre.The two groups came together to form a board with Dorothy Taylor serving as president and Penny Sinclair as vice president.
Manager Debbie Kowal said the initial Toy Library was much smaller when the doors opened in July, 1980 under the direction of the late Marilyn Jackson.
Kowal, who has been the manager for 23 years, said anybody who started or worked at the Toy Library, still loves and believes in it.
She was hooked on the value of the Toy Library from her first day.
“I just totally believe in what it does and I love the kids.”
There were not many toys when she first started and some of them were missing pieces. It was up to her to put these pieces back on the toys so they could be used.
Community support has played a huge role in its success. Toy donations continue to come in from individuals and organizations.
Donated toys are never thrown out unless they are broken beyond repair. If toys are not put on the shelves, they are designated for garage sales or donated to other places, she said.
The Toy Library has over 1,000 toys but when Kowal first started, she had to buy toys at garage sales because they didn’t have a lot of money.
Family and Community Support Services has provided funding for all 40 years. Service clubs have also helped out over the years.
The services provided have expanded over the years. For the past couple of years the Early Childhood Development Coalition has sponsored educational toys. These toys are used by nursery schools, day cares and schools.
Brooks appears to be the right size to operate a successful Toy Library.
Kowal said a Toy Library in Okotoks closed its doors just about four years ago. Medicine Hat tried to have one but they are too big.
“We are the biggest one in Canada. There are not very many left,” she said adding there are tons of them in Australia.
With the exception of last year, very few toys have been stolen.
She said the Toy Library is heavily used by its members with the biggest age group use being from babies to age seven.
A yearly family membership costs $30 which enables each child coming into the facility to take a couple toys every two weeks. Group memberships (schools and day cares) costs $50.
Kowal said the amount of difference of what toys cost from now to 23 years ago is ridiculous. Toys were also better made 23 years ago.
Families are also able to borrow car seats and play pens with their membership.