Collingwood Neighbourhood House (CNH) proudly recognizes its long-serving staff members. At this year’s Annual General Meeting (AGM), CNH staff and contractors who have reached the milestones of 5, 10, 15, 20, 25 and, for the first time in CNH’s history, 30 years of service and dedication to the neighbourhood house, were thanked by the Board of Directors.
This year, we recognize and celebrate Alison Merton, Director of the Early Years, for 25 years of service.
Alison is an efficient woman: she grew up, was educated and met her husband in the same city, Preston, England. When her to-be husband decided to return to Canada (he had relocated temporarily to Preston to be near his mother, who was friends with Alison’s mother) Alison decided to move with him.
Trained and experienced as a Nursery Nurse (the British equivalent of a Child Care Worker), Alison landed in Canada in 1995 wondering how she would ever find work. Turned out her skills in efficiency worked yet again: a woman living across the hall from Alison’s mother-in-law happened to be looking for casual child care workers for CNH. Alison applied and within a week of landing in Canada, she had a job.
Within two months, Alison was hired permanently as a child care staff at CNH and two years later, she became the program’s manager. When she was just three years shy of working at CNH, Alison was promoted to Child Care Assistant Coordinator where she worked on human resources, program operations and financial management. By 2001 she was a Child Care Coordinator, adding enrolment to her list of responsibilities.
In 2018, Alison was appointed as Director of the Early Years Department. While growing her career at CNH, Alison and her husband Dave have also raised two children, Ross and Cerys, whose sporty talents led Alison and Dave to attend more soccer and basketball games per year than most people attend in a lifetime.
In looking back at her 25 years with CNH, Alison said one of the hardest challenges was moving away from her coordinator colleagues, Ana and Diana. For so many years they were a tight threesome, sharing one office and working very collegially and Alison found it tough to move away from them and into the Director’s office.
As a director, responding to COVID-19 has been one of the biggest challenges Alison has had to face but she said there have been other, day-to-day challenges she has faced from the moment she started in the role. She said learning to focus on finding a balance of what’s good for the individual (staff or participant) and the organization has been a learning curve. She also reflected on how, in her role as a director, she’s learned to take the time and reflect on why people are responding in particular ways to a situation: “I’m not so quick to judge,” she said. Highlights in her work at CNH include a CNH staff trip to Reggio Emilia, Italy to study the Reggio philosophy and approaches to child care as well as meeting, “amazing mentors, friends and leaders at CNH”. Best of all: “I’m making a difference in people’s lives.”