A local playgroup which has welcomed over 1,000 children through its doors is marking its 25th anniversary later this month.
Alphabet Playgroup, based in Greenisland Community Centre, first opened in September 1993.
"Before this, the NSPCC were in control of a pre-school playgroup in the centre but were withdrawing their services due to financial issues," said playgroup leader, Noreen Arkins.
"The parents, who had children attending the group, were concerned as they would have nowhere to send them. NSPCC suggested they start their own group so in 1992, they began fundraising."
Following the success of their fundraising efforts, the group of parents formed a committee to manage the playgroup and, with the help of Social Services, appointed a leader.
At that time of opening in 1993, there were 25 children on the register. By 1999, the playgroup had joined the Pre-School Expansion Programme administered by the Department of Education NI.
The move meant additional financial help was available to secure funded places for pre-school children, helping families in the locality.
"It also meant the group had to meet the Department of Education’s exacting criteria, following the national curriculum in pre-school education. DENI have inspected the group three times since then with outcomes ranging from ‘Satisfactory’ to ‘Outstanding’ to ‘Very Good’," Noreen added.
Throughout the intervening years, Alphabet has supplied over 1,000 children with pre-school educational places and employed additional permanent staff.
Today they have five, fully qualified staff members.
"People who attended the group as children are now bringing their children and, in the case of the first chairperson Doreen, her grandchildren," Noreen said.
"To celebrate our 25 years, we are holding a ‘25th Tea Party’ on Thursday, June 28 from 1pm- 3:30 pm.
"We would love to see past parents and children, former staff members, council employees, social workers, Early Years Specialists or anyone who has had a connection with the group over the past quarter of a century. Come along and have a cuppa and reminisce."
Meanwhile, the playgroup still has funded places for September.
Alphabet Playgroup can be contacted on 028 90860851.