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Keith's Sunshine Developmental Playgroup makes "very hard" decision to close after 35 years for mix of reasons

By Jonathan Clark

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Simpson Park Pavillion - Keith.Picture: Daniel Forsyth.
Simpson Park Pavillion - Keith.Picture: Daniel Forsyth.

SUNSHINE Developmental Playgroup in Keith has made the "very hard" decision to close after 35 years.

The charity, which looked after medically-referred young children with additional needs, said coronavirus was "the last straw" despite the generosity of the local community.

Four part-time jobs will be lost as a result of the closure.

Treasurer Julia McDougall said: "It was a very hard decision, and none of us are happy about it, but the management committee were unanimous that, having weathered very many crises during the life of the playgroup, it had now become unsustainable.

"The Keith community is unfailingly generous in their support, but there are more and more local charities, and less money going around.

"Coronavirus has been the last straw. In addition to being short of money, we faced logistical problems in our shared building and we would have had to change working practices, which would have reduced the number of children we could support.

"It will be a big loss to the children and their parents, as well as the staff, and we very much regret that it has become inevitable."

Keith GP, Dr Alan Matheson, formed the playgroup back in 1985 – and Mrs McDougall has been on board for more than half of the group's 35 years, serving on the committee for 18 years.

Sunshine Developmental Playgroup was focused on getting youngsters prepared for heading up to nursery or mainstream playgroups, as well as providing access to therapists, such as physiotherapists and speech therapists.

But most of all, it was a comfortable and and homely-feeling place for children.

Simpson Park Pavillion - Keith.Picture: Daniel Forsyth.
Simpson Park Pavillion - Keith.Picture: Daniel Forsyth.

Mrs McDougall added: "The playgroup room was bright and welcoming, with children's art work on the walls.

"It had a lovely, friendly atmosphere. The staff made it a very special place, which the children loved, with a huge variety of things to do and toys and equipment to play on.

"I have heard lots of parents speak very highly of the staff, and of the difference that their time at Sunshine made to their children's progress.

"We have been so lucky to have such well qualified and dedicated staff, who have ensured that every child, no matter what their ability, has been encouraged to maximise their potential during their time with us."

Mrs McDougall thanked a number of people who have been associated with the playgroup over the years.

She thanked staff, parents, health professionals who referred children, therapists, committee members past and present, their landlord, Keith and District Sports Trust, who have allowed them to share the Simpson Park pavillion and the "unfailingly generous" businesses and individual people of Keith and the surrounding area, who have donated prizes and supplies, attended events, bought and sold raffle tickets and held events.

She finished: "Once more, a huge thank you to everyone associated with the playgroup over the years, and for the wonderful and very generous support from the wider community.

"Without your support we could not have helped so many children over so many years."

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