CELEBRATION: Balloons, party hats and a delicious spread are all part of the 50th anniversary celebration enjoyed on Tuesday by Playcentre children, many of whom’s parents had attended when they were pre-schoolers. Photos Troy Baker D9732-053

THIS year’s annual Playcentre Awareness Week was an even more important occasion for Port Ohope Playcentre than it was for centres in the rest of New Zealand.

That is because it marked the 50th anniversary since the centre was opened.

Centre member Cherie Stevenson says this year, Playcente Aotearoa, of which the Port Ohope centre is one of the earliest members, held an Open Week where families could visit their local Playcentres, nationwide, to experience it for themselves.

The Port Ohope centre decided to combine its open day on Tuesday last week with a birthday celebration for the centre. “We just thought it was a really good time to celebrate our 50th anniversary. The playcentre down at Port Ohope has been there since 1970.

“It started out as a playgroup for mums to bring their young children and to this day, it is a really neat resourse that we have, that is really unique in that it is a proper, Government regulated early childhood centre, but run entirely by parent volunteers.”

PLAYCENTRE FAMILY: Above, Thomas, Emmeline and Sean Henderson, making music here with Bonnie Savage, have recently rejoined the Playcentre family. D9732-028

Celebrations included a birthday cake and there was also an official unveiling of the centre’s new stage.

Cherie says it was really nice because not only did the open day attract new people to the centre but also some founding members, and people who attended as children and are returning as parents today.

Those who have a long history with the centre included Whakatane District Council’s Ohope Community Board member Moira Hanna whose children attended the centre.

“Robyn Watchorn, who was one of our founding members, was there, which was lovely.”

Cherie says there are several families at the centre in which the parents had attended when they were young.

One family had three generations there. Emmeline Henderson, who attended Port Ohope Playcentre as a child, attended the open day with her husband Sean, their pre-school son Thomas and also Emmeline’s mother, who used to be a member.

“It’s neat, because Emmeline has actually joined up after coming to the open day.”

It just shows that there is a lot of people coming back now, and bringing their families, wanting their children having that same sort of experience they had growing up.

“For instance, my children. Their father, Rob Stevenson, went there when he was younger.

“I think we should be really proud, as New Zealanders, that we have something like playcentre – it’s a world-leading movement.”

The open day was also an opportunity to unveil the centre’s new stage.

“We just had a new stage built, for which we had a lot of help from the Southern Trust and Whakatane District Council. It gives the children an opportunity to perform and we also use if for doing other activities,” Cherie says.

To learn more about playcentre, visit the website, playcentre.org.nz. With more than 420 centres across New Zealand, including seven in the Eastern Bay, there is bound to be