A day in the life of an essential worker, First’s own Rachel Anweiler

The idea for interviewing Rachel came when I encountered her and her colleague Cheryl Foort (I know, another Cheryl?!) driving a shopping cart into the church hall, because they had donations for the outreach family food baskets. And it struck me, does anyone know about these angels in our midst?

Rachel and Cheryl cook for children during the week at Building Blocks, a daycare agency in Kelowna. And what they can’t use, they bring to the church. I had so many questions and Rachel was kind enough to answer them before she faceplanted into bed. ~Tanya

How many kids?
We have 2 campuses, one on Sutherland ave, and one on Gordon Ave. Together we serve just under 300 kids every day. The Sutherland campus holds 75 kids, and the Gordon campus currently holds 180 kids, and that number is likely to go up.

How old are they?
The kids range in age from 6 months to 5 years (or until thy start kindergarten). On certain occasions (such as now) we will accept kids that are younger if their parents needs to return to work.

What kind of essential services do their parents provide?
With that many students, you can imagine the parents hold a variety of different jobs, but we do have several parents that are doctors, nurses, police officers, and teachers.

What do you cook/feed them?
We feed them 2 snacks and a lunch every single day. We ensure that every snack has at least 2 food groups in it, and that lunches have all 4. We serve every snack and lunch with fresh fruit or fresh veggies. We feed them a whole assortment of food! For lunches, it can range from soups, pastas, rice dishes, sandwiches, and wraps. Some of their favorite dishes are Turkey Chili, Beef Stroganoff, Pizza Roll Ups, and Butter Chicken (their absolute favorite!)! Snacks can range anything from Toasted Engish Muffins, Bagels, Cookies, Fruit/Veggie Platters, Muffins, Loafs, Meat Cheese and Pickle platters. All baking we make from scratch in house.

How long have you and Cheryl worked there?
Rachel has been running the Sutherland location and assisting at the Gordon location for 10 months, and Cheryl Foort, who runs the Gordon campus, has been there since the very beginning when it was just a small daycare of 6 kids being run out of an apartment, about 13 years ago.

Any anecdotes from the workplace?
For Rachel, at the Sutherland campus, there is a doorway in the kitchen that is shared with the 6 month-24 month classroom. There is a baby gate in the doorway to keep the babies from coming to the kitchen, but the babies love coming up to me and see what I am cooking for them. The few that can talk love standing there saying “Hi Rachel”, or “What’s that” over and over again. One of my favorite stories is that one child learned to say “Hat Please” (although it sounds like “peas”), so I would give him my hat, and that has now become everyone’s favorite toy! The kids love sharing my hat and trying to put it on. For some of the kids, the first word I can hear them mumble is “hat”. It is something that makes my day every single day!

For Cheryl F., this happened just this week. Cheryl F. and Rachel were making mini pizzas for the kids for lunch. We were standing side by side while we were building these. We always have the radio on at work to help keep us motivated, and at one point, an ad came on reminding people to continue practicing physical distancing. Once the add was over, we both immediately took one step opposite of each other, looked at each other, and in unison said “you’re too close!” We both burst out laughing! Cheryl F. commented that “they say when you spend enough time with someone, you start to think the same”.

What do think of the current context we’re living/working in?
Given the current situation in our World, we are continuing to stay open so that parents who offer essential services are still able to do their job. This time is very difficult for everyone, especially young kids as they don’t understand why this virus is so serious and why they can’t continue to go to school or see their friends. We currently have between 40-50 children attending daily during this epidemic, and each child has had to deal with a lot of changes. We have temporarily closed our Sutherland campus, so all children that were attending there now have to attend the Gordon campus. Because we have such low numbers of kids, we currently have 6 classrooms (there is usually 14), and each class is comprised of 2-3 different classes. These changes are very difficult for children to deal with as children thrive on routine, but also, many of their classmates and teachers that they know are not around (several teachers have chosen to isolate themselves to keep themselves safe), so this is a time where things are changing all the time.
For all of us as staff, we have continued to give the children the love and care that they need. We all come to work with a smile on our faces, happy to still be able to work and to see the happy, smiling faces of the kids every day.