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Working Together for a Thriving Community

(Shelldale Family Gateway plans for a safe and fun Summer Camp program for the children and youth living within the Onward Willow community)

About us

Shelldale Family Gateway (formerly Better Beginnings, Better Futures), excels as a charitable organization, built from a vision for a neighbourhood of healthy children, healthy families, and healthy communities. Our respectful and multicultural approach strives to meet the needs of a diverse community, offering programs and supports that improve lives, and has been transforming the neighbourhood for over twenty-five years. 

In today’s world, children and youth are at an increasing risk for poor mental health.  The risk is even higher if they live in low-income communities, where families have fewer supports.  Shelldale Family Gateway has demonstrated that the best way to help these children have good long-term outcomes is by collaborating with the community and supporting the families – children, youth, adults, and seniors – rather than just focusing on the child.

The Shelldale Family Gateway neighbourhood is known for its feeling of community, where neighbours know one another and work together on various initiatives.  There are many volunteers, community and community leaders who invest their time in building a strong community where children and families thrive.  However, this neighbourhood is also characterized by high density housing; the largest number of social housing units in the City; a large newcomer population; a significant number of single parent led families; and, the lowest incomes on average in the City.  Research shows that these kinds of socio-economic indicators can negatively impact on children’s wellbeing.  Shelldale Family Gateway provides a place to help mitigate these impacts through enriching opportunities for children and families, effective and accessible services, and strong community leadership.

Children’s Programs

Shelldale Family Gateway is one of 3 EarlyON Centre’s (for ages 0-6) serving Wellington County. We provide opportunities for children to participate in play and inquiry- based programs, and support parents and caregivers in their roles. 

Programs include Toddler Play, Drop in Playtime, Baby Day, Infant Massage, Workshop Wednesdays, Bounce Back and Thrive and Circle of Security.  
These programs provide a safe, welcoming environment for children and their parents/caregivers to connect, play, explore and learn together. The knowledgeable staff are available to answer questions on child development and parenting.  Our program space offers a variety of play opportunities including indoor and outdoor play in our large bright playroom and outdoor playground.

All EarlyON programs are free and open to families living in Guelph and Wellington County.  

In addition – and just as importantly – is the need for early intervention and primary prevention for children and youth beyond the age of 6 years as well as their families. These Shelldale Family Gateway programs are funded through grants and community donations and are open to youth and families living in the Onward Willow Neighbourhood.  

Youth Programs

Shelldale Family Gateway provides a variety of Afterschool programs for children and youth ages 6 and up.  We partner with businesses and organizations within the community to help us support some of the most vulnerable in the City of Guelph.
Programs include Breakfast Club, various Afterschool programs, Teen Drop In, Summer and March Break Camps, Mentoring and Leadership programs as well as special events and off-site trips. All programs provide a nutritious healthy meal or snack in supporting the food insecurity within our neighbourhood.

Our youth programs focus on helping youth develop a variety of new skills including leadership development, teamwork, problem solving, and communication skills. Forming long lasting friendships is key in supporting the youth who participate in our programs. Over 400 neighbourhood youth participate in these programs each year.

Community Programs

We believe that a strong, supported, connected community means a healthy community.  Many community members volunteer in our programs in a variety of ways such as front desk, administration, program support, special events, and Boards and committees. This not only provides much needed support for our organization but also provides training and support for the community member.

Throughout the year we also provide a variety of community programs and events to keep community connected. These include Holiday Celebrations, International Women’s Day, National Volunteer Week, Shelldale Family Picnic, Fundraisers as well as our Community Garden.


As happens with so many charitable and not-for-profit organizations, sustainability of programs is always the number one concern.  Our annual budget to provide the programs and supports for our Youth & Community Program is $377,000 per year.  These programs receive NO government funding, therefore, as an organization, each year we must apply for grants and fundraise to be able to provide the supports that are vital in this high-risk community.   

Every year our Youth & Community Programs are at risk! Our Youth & Community Coordinator has been with us for 22 years, and is dedicated to the children, youth, and families of this community.  Along with her staff, she provides leadership opportunities to the over 400 youth that are involved in our programs each year.  We currently have two youth that are now staff - that grew up in our neighbourhood - accessing our programs and supports - now mentoring other children and youth in the community.  True success stories!  Many of our youth we are proud to say have gone on to college and university, full-time employment and become productive members of society – with the support of people like you!

Click here to find out about more ways to give!


Many of our programs depend on the support of volunteers to be successful. In fact, over 250 volunteers help our amazing staff deliver our programs each year!
Volunteering is a great way to contribute to your community, meet people, and gain new skills and experiences.  We have a wide variety of opportunities throughout the week in all of our program areas as well as fundraising events.

Our People