PORT HAWKESBURY: Last Friday was a big day at the Reach Church, but in a way, every Friday at the Reach Church is a big day – at least for youngsters in the area.

“We host a play cafe every Friday, from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., and it’s totally free. There are free snacks, and we have some things here to keep the kids entertained every Friday,” said Janelle Keough, who pastors at the church with her husband Steve.

“It’s a chance for kids and parents to come out and connect with other kids and caregivers. The kids learn socialization, how to make friends, share – all of those things.”

The principles of the Reach Church’s play cafe overlap with those of Raising the Villages, a movement focusing on the health and wellbeing of children. Indeed, last Friday saw Raising the Villages make its presence known at the local church, as their third annual “Welcoming our Youngest Citizens” celebration took place during the play cafe.

Raising the Villages hosted four celebrations in Cape Breton to coincide with Universal Children’s Day. The other events took place in Cheticamp, Inverness, and Baddeck earlier in the month.

“This annual coming together reinforces the call to action that we need to do more for our youngest citizens, they are deserving of a regionally coordinated response to meet their needs,” said Raising the Villages’ communications coordinator Amanda Knight.

Janelle Keough said having a sort of co-host for the play cafe was very nice.

“We have the same goals and outlook,” she said. “We both want to bring the community together.”

Steve Keough said he’s happy to have a facility where kids can gather for the play cafe. The play area is in the bottom of the Reach Church, where a room is set aside complete with an activity table, kitchen, ball pit, and mini-bouncy castle.

“The next thing we have coming up is a free Christmas concert on December 11 at 7 p.m.,” he said. “We keep busy here.”

Photos by Grant McDaniel —

Pastors Steve and Janelle Keough at the Reach Church in Port Hawkesbury host a play cafe every Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. On November 29, the event was co-hosted by Raising the Villages, a local initiative focusing on the health and wellbeing of young citizens.

Representing Raising the Villages at the event was Port Hawkesbury Mayor Brenda Chisholm-Beaton. She said it’s very important to have communities welcoming everyone irrespective of age or differences.

“It’s about creating an integrated and accepting community,” she said. “The fact that Reach Church has a play cafe every Friday – and other play groups throughout Port Hawkesbury – makes it easy for us to apply the Raising the Villages lens on those different gatherings. At the end of the day, welcoming our youngest citizens is important.”

One of the regulars to the play cafe is Jill Landry who is happy to have a place where she can take her young one. Landry is not a member of the church, but she said the play group is very welcoming and does a great service for the community.

“It’s an amazing place to bring the kids,” she said. “To be able to come to someplace in Port Hawkesbury, every week, for the kids and to be able to chat with other parents is amazing.”