Johnsonville and Churton Park’s youngest citizens will benefit with a state-of-the-art facility thanks to the generosity of a Johnsonville couple.
Buster and Maureen Thomas bequeathed $1.5 million to Johnsonville Plunket in 2006 for the purpose of building a new facility. Currently Plunket operates from an old house in Rotoiti St that is too small to provide all services needed by young mums and their new babies.
Johnsonville Plunket has used the money provided by the Thomas’s to buy two sections on Rotoiti St. With a house moved off one the sections in early April, construction of a much awaited building has now started.
Johnsonville Plunket president Sandra Yeldon says the lack of space has been a longstanding problem. “We haven’t been able to offer the Plunket car seat rental programme because it requires space to wash, check and clean them. We found that parents were driving to Porirua, Tawa or Newtown because we didn’t offer car seats in Johnsonville.”
Ms Yeldon says Johnsonville Plunket has also been unable to offer parenting education classes. “So we’ve been running them from the Johnsonville Community Centre. But when the new facility opens we’ll be able to bring them back in-house.”
When it opens the new facility will provide triple the space of the current building, plus provide 13 car parks – which are an important consideration on a narrow street.
Although it has taken six years to get to this stage, Ms Yeldon says there are good reasons for the delay. “We’ve lost out on several previous properties. We’ve bid at auctions and submitted tenders to no avail.”
She says Plunket also had some very particular requirements. “We had to stay close to the centre of Johnsonville and we need a certain size.”
The Johnsonville Charitable Trust has helped the project by awarding Johnsonville Plunket a $130,000 grant.
“These new facilities are crucial to the local community. We have one of the largest populations of under-fives in the country and our current facilities are stretched. The trust recognised this in awarding us the additional money, and for this we are delighted and thankful,” says Ms Yeldon.
Ms Yeldon says there is a still a funding shortfall for the project. Options for closing it are being explored.
She says the aim is to have the new facility opened by November. All current Plunket services will continue to operate during the construction phase.