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Beloved local business Duran Place for Kids asks for help

Duran Kids COVID-19
Beloved local business Duran Place for Kids asks for help
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Thomas Desormeaux

Thomas Desormeaux

Thomas Desormeaux is a reporter and writer who lives close to the border of Oakville and Mississauga. He has lived in the GTA for his entire life and is interested in global events, politics and government. follow on twitter @TommyDesormeaux

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The COVID-19 pandemic has been tough for Duran Place for Kids. After a combination of a slow spring and the damage from State of Emergency closures, the beloved business faced eviction from their downtown Oakville location. That is when they put out a plea for help.

Duran Place for Kids is an activity centre that provides Oakville children with lessons in painting, yoga, tutoring and other things. The business began operating a year ago after teacher Tina De Crisci and her husband left their jobs to pursue a “lifelong dream.”

“It started off being lessons for the children, it’s four floors so we’ve got everything, from music to art, dance and tutoring” she says. “It’s just a wonderful venue so it just lends itself to a lot of things.”

But a month or so ago this service to the community came under threat. After a slow start to the year, the family could not afford to pay their rent during the State of Emergency shutdowns. Shortly after informing their landlord, the family found out that he would be locking their doors on March 30th.

Duran Kids Covid-19

The Lakeshore-Trafalgar area of Oakville has been under construction for much of 2020. “Some people weren’t willing to venture past all that messiness and all the detours and roadblocks especially moms with children which was mostly who we would get,” Tina says. “The construction just slowed things down to where we were stretching our pennies and then we were asked to close.”

Duran Place stopped operating before it was officially mandated by the government. “That was right before our March break camps were starting. We had all the deposits down and we refunded everybody, that was our choice. It wouldn’t have been fair, parents don’t feel safe bringing their children into a group environment,” Tina says.

When they received this news, Duran Kids started a GoFundMe campaign page to raise money. “We were in a panic, we started it at 3:00 in the morning,” Tina says. “We’ve never been more vulnerable and more brave at the same time”

The response from the community was overwhelming. As of today, the page has 193 donors for a total of over $15,000.

Their children were asking about going to the block place. You know, ‘can we go to the beach,’ because we have a sand room.

“They miss us,” says Tina. “That was nice to see, a lot of direct messages. Their children were asking about going to the block place. You know, ‘can we go to the beach,’ because we have a sand room.”

“Beautiful family doing such great work,” reads one comment. “The Duran Family are amazing people who have put their hearts and souls into providing an awesome place for a kid!” reads another.

Since the campaign began, Duran Place has negotiated a deal with their landlord. “That money that was raised helped us to negotiate. We originally didn’t have anything to negotiate with,” Tina says. Although their business venue is secure for now, Duran Place is continuing to struggle during the shutdown.

Beautiful family doing such great work

“We went down to zero revenue, zero income… nothing,” Tina says. “We haven’t even paid ourselves this year.” The Federal government’s Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) program was announced after the business’s rent negotiations. Even when it arrived, Tina De Crisci says that the criteria excluded them from receiving the benefit at first.

“It sounded great, $40,000 interest free. We didn’t meet all the criteria being a new business. So we were stuck. Then that same week he put down the criteria, it was reduced to $20,000 which we JUST BARELY made,” she says.

Even after receiving the CECRA, the application process does not provide the funds immediately. “The banks wouldn’t have everything in place yet. They weren’t even accepting applications yet and we were seeing businesses closing down,” Tina says.

Now, there is also a benefit program available to landlords, designed to allow them to be more lenient towards their tenants. That being said, there is no guarantee that landlords will apply. Some Oakville businesses may not see this type of relief.

Duran Place for Kids is still in business. They are planning to reopen once the Province allows it. They still have no revenue going forward. Even once it’s technically allowed, customers aren’t likely to return in droves. Allowing children to commune freely with each other isn’t the most exciting idea shortly after a pandemic. Even knowing these things, Tina and her family are continuing to do work, continuing to serve their community.

On Easter, they organized for the Easter Bunny to visit hundreds of streets all over Oakville to interact with kids from afar. A week ago, there were volunteers dressed in donated Pup Patrol costumes out front of the business, waving to children as they drove by. Tina says that a lot of the parents at these events offered to pay them money for what they’d done. But the family wouldn’t take it, for them it was about helping the kids out during this tough time, to continue to give back to the community.

If you are interested in finding out more about Duran Place for Kids you can visit their website at https://duranplaceforkids.com/ or donate to their campaign at https://www.gofundme.com/f/saving-duran-place-for-kids.

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