When parents at Peachgrove Playcentre started researching for the centre's 50th anniversary, they unexpectedly discovered founding member Anne Kilgour living just over the fence, in the Hilda Ross Retirement Village.
Half a century ago in 1970, Kilgour saw the need for an organised programme of play for preschool children in the Claudelands area. With a firm belief that ‘if you have an idea, just get on and do it’, she and her friend Jenny went out and recruited ten parents.
Driving around the local streets, Kilgour saw the old Peachgrove Lounge, a disused recreation hall and canteen for ammunition factory workers built during World War II.
Never one to waste time, she contacted then-Mayor Mike Minogue and within a week got him to agree to the group using the building.
With permission to use the venue for an initial two years, the original Claudelands Peachgrove Playcentre began.
Within six months, it was the biggest community Playcentre in the Waikato.
The families involved decided to treat the centre like it was theirs forever, and planted trees in the grounds.
Fifty years on, Peachgrove Playcentre is still located in the same spot, with a new building, lots of trees, and a current roll of 34 children. It’s still one of the biggest Playcentres in the region.
Current member Penny Matich says the centre has grown over the years, with some original children now coming back with their own young families.
“I was one of the kids who attended in the late 1980’s and then returned in 2009 with my first child.
It’s a fantastic place for young children and their families. “The anniversary has really emphasised just how much mahi and aroha has been put into the centre over the years.
The trees planted 50 years ago by the original families are being climbed on and sat under by children here now. That’s pretty special and reminds us that what we do will benefit others in another 50 years’ time.”
Playcentre is a uniquely New Zealand organisation, where each centre is run as a co-operative by the parents of the children who attend.
There are currently 21 Playcentres in the Waikato, offering mixed-age, child-led play sessions for children from birth to school age.
While Anne Kilgour couldn’t physically attend the Peachgrove jubilee event held on Sunday 18 October, she appeared via video with a message about the impact of the centre in the community.
“In my 50 years of running training groups about leadership and building creative and collaborative family, work and community groups, Playcentre has been the model,” says Anne.
“In Playcentre, every family learns and grows and everyone they ever meet benefits. It’s like a feather pillow opened and the feathers scattered on the wind.
Thousands of people have benefited daily from the enjoyment of life and the learnings they have from the Peachgrove Playcentre community.”
All families with young children are welcome to become part of the next generation at Peachgrove Playcentre.
The centre runs five morning sessions a week, including an all-ages outdoor session on Fridays, and the first three visits are free.