Shelldale Family Gateway has known a few names since its inception in 1991. Began as Onward Willow Better Beginnings, Better Futures (then referred to as Shelldale Better Beginnings, Better Futures), is now known as Shelldale Family Gateway. Despite the changes in name, we still maintain the core values and organizational goals that we began with over 25 years ago. Located within the Onward Willow Neighbourhood of Guelph, Ontario, we are an organization built from a vision for a neighbourhood of healthy children, healthy families, and healthy communities. As part of a hub of social service agencies within the Shelldale Centre, we work from one integrated location; where there is a wide range of programs for every family member: infants, children, youth, adults, and seniors. Programs are multicultural, and community driven reflecting the ever-changing nature of the neighbourhood.
In 1991, the province of Ontario implemented a project called Better Beginnings, Better Futures to learn whether providing primary prevention programs would reduce risk for families with children who lived in high-risk communities. Onward Willow Better Beginnings, Better Futures (OWBBBF), now known as Shelldale Family Gateway in Guelph, Ontario, was chosen as a program site for families and children from birth to four years of age.
One drawback to implementing programs was the lack of space at the Onward Willow Centre at 15 Willow Road. As a result, Shelldale Family Gateway rented and renovated an old flat-roofed warehouse at 58 Dawson Road, a site conveniently located near Shelldale Public School.
The new centre, which opened in 1994, was named Family Gateway. The name was chosen because it suggested a gateway for families into the project and a gateway for children to a better life. An addition in 1998 gave Onward Willow an updated kitchen and two offices for the preschool coordinator and family support worker.
In 1996, when the project completed the five-year research demonstration period, the MCSS continued funding the BBBF programs. It also raised the age limit eligibility, allowing children up to age six to be served.
The community and the demand for programs grew through the 1990s, but even with the expansion, Onward Willow Better Beginnings, Better Futures was limited in the programs it could offer at Family Gateway. Then in 1998, with the proposed closing of Shelldale Public School, came an opportunity for OWBBBF and many other service providers to better support the community. In December 2001, OWBBBF moved into the renovated Shelldale Centre where we currently offer programs and services alongside other agencies such as Family and Children’s Services, Guelph Community Health Centre, PlaySense, Lutherwood and Immigrant Services.
In 2014, the Ministry of Education assumed responsibility for BBBF from the Ministry of Children and Youth Services creating a push for separation between the Onward Willow Neighbhourhood Group and Better Beginnings, Better Futures. It was a result of this shift that we became Shelldale Better Beginnings, Better Futures.
In January 2018, Ontario’s four child and family programs were integrated into one common system that offers a consistent set of core services across the province, as well as others tailored to local needs. The programs that were consolidated under the EarlyON umbrella include Ontario Early Years Centres, Parenting and Family Literacy Centres, Child Care Resource Centres, and Better Beginnings, Better Futures.
In order to maintain many of the programs that we deliver in the Onward Willow Community we needed to become an EarlyON site within a larger organization that also delivers the many other community based programs that we offer. The name Better Beginnings Better Futures was a provincial designation and therefore retired.
We decided to again adopt the historical name of Family Gateway and thus since 2018, are officially named Shelldale Family Gateway. For a more extensive and exciting read on the past of Shelldale Family Gateway you can read our story in the book “Realizing the Dream: The Story of Better Beginnings, Better Futures in Guelph” now available through the Shelldale Centre.