In 1970 Martin Luther Church, Etobicoke began the Martin Luther Church Day Care. They purchased the vacant house next door where subsidized daycare has been provided to children in the diverse Mimico community for 45 years. It has remained a non-profit community service welcoming children of all denominations and backgrounds since its inception.
Former Martin Luther church pastor Eberhard W. Schwantes came up with the idea for the daycare after watching children playing in the parking lot because they had nowhere else to go. When speaking in support of the project Pastor Schwantes was quoted as saying “The church must move out of the four walls of the building of worship, we must be involved in the community.”
After much discussion and plenty of fundraising there was still lots to do- that’s when the volunteers took over. Many church members offered their considerable talents- carpenters, painters and plenty of labourers to get the building ready and in May 1970 they opened the doors to the community and began caring for 26 neighbourhood kids.
Soon they were licensed to care for 76 children and expanded to include a preschool, toddler, kindergarten and before and after school program and even spread to the church basement.
Disaster struck, however, in October 2013 when a fire destroyed most of the interior at 5 Superior Ave. Thankfully no one was hurt in the fire but the building was badly burnt and the toddler program had to be suspended till repairs could be made.
Just like 45 years ago, many church members have spent a lot of time getting things back up and running. They set up fundraising and donation accounts and helped overcome construction hurdles. They reached out to neighbourhood partners and local officials to ask for their support. In late August a team of 7 children and 17 adults filled a 12 yard garbage bin to the brim as they transformed the yard and playground around the house and the church from a jungle into an outdoor paradise.
On September 1, 2015 the Martin Luther Church Daycare once again opened its doors to the public. Their mission is what it has always been- to ensure that excellent care is provided to as many of the neighbourhood’s children as possible. The organization follows a government mandated curriculum and focuses on learning with family and children to find out how to best encourage the individual child. There is space for 56 kids- lots of room for both the preschool and toddler programs.
One last part of the renovation is planned for after the opening. Fundraising efforts are now underway and soon the plain grey walls on the exterior of the daycare building are to be transformed with the painting of a mural that hopes to bring the vibrant life inside the building to its outside walls. Church president Iris Schweiger says “We are living in a vibrant, active and culturally rich neighbourhood along the lakeshore that shows passion for the arts. This is the perfect opportunity to add to that spirit.”
To learn more about the daycare program go to http://martinluther.ca/community/news-of-the-church/
Financial donations can be made to Martin Luther Church for the 5 Superior Trust.