It began with a walk past an almost empty house and a bright idea, now Blenheim’s first community playgroup is turning 30.
Blenheim-born nurse Marion Rowe returned to Marlborough from Fielding but missed the close friends she had made at playgroup there.
She says she spotted the building on her daily walks and knew straight away it would make the perfect playgroup.
“I went for walks with the children and noticed it was hardly being used.
“I contacted the council about it. I wanted to find other mothers with children my son’s age,” Marion says.
The Dillons Point Community Playgroup anniversary also celebrates the beginning of some life-long friendships.
Marion says she is still friends with some of the mums she met there and her son, Stephen, met his best man at the playgroup as a toddler.
“They grew up like brothers, they spent time at each other’s houses and were best men at each other’s weddings.
“They were born just four days apart.”
The playgroup, situated in the Bright Centre, has changed a lot since Marion’s time, but the ethos remains the same.
“It was completely community-owned and operated and we had to make our own rules.
“My great desire was to create an environment where mothers could talk to other mothers.
“There were other groups, but their focus was about stimulating the children.
“Having had postnatal depression, I knew the value about talking in an environment where women could be honest with one another,” she says.
From five families when it first opened in 1989 to 36 by 1991, the playgroup went from strength to strength.
“You could talk to other mothers and not be frowned upon for not playing with your child. I think mothers need that support,” Marion says.
As a registered, Plunket nurse, and with a diploma in chaplaincy, Marion says she learnt a lot of skills setting-up the playgroup that stood her in good stead later in life.
“We started from scratch and bought stuff from home. We held auctions for small things that mums brought in like a jar of jam and raised money that way.
“We became each other’s families,” Marion says.
Returning as a grandmother to the playgroup with grandchildren Ollie and Sophie, Marion says was a special moment.
“I am very proud of it. To see the passion continued by successive community groups, it’s is fantastic and a real credit to them.
“Big congratulations to all of them for keeping it going. I never dreamt it would be going this long, it’s wonderful to see.”
The birthday will be celebrated on 17 July with an open day from 9 am until noon.