Ark Toy and Activity Library celebrates 40th anniversary

The EGHS Ark Toy and Activity Library is this year celebrating its 40th anniversary, and to mark the occasion held a luncheon at Chalambar Golf Club.

Forty people attended including Toy Library members, founding members, Life Members, families who had attended the Toy Library in its early years and EGHS staff and special guests.

The cake was cut by Tom Fleming, who attended the Toy Library as a child with his mum Heather, and Karen Moss, who was a regular attendee with her daughter Tania.

The Toy Library has undergone many changes, upgrades and venues over the past 40 years, culminating with a move to a purpose built space in the Community Health Centre just prior to COVID.

A special history of the Toy Library was written by Ararat historian Marion McAdie and it appears below:

In 1983 when the Noah’s Ark Mobile Toy Library, which travelled from Melbourne to Ararat monthly, advised they would cease coming to Ararat, a committee was formed to provide the Ararat community with its own toy library.  The committee consisted of Red Cross members, Erin Ballinger of the Early Childhood Development Programme, and other interested persons.  The library would be known as ‘Ararat and District Ark Toy Library Inc.’ and would be situated at 60 High Street, in McDonald Centre. The new committee needed to raise $5000 to start the Library and to continue providing children with special needs the educational and therapeutic toys required to have fun with but also help overcome their physical, mental, emotional or perceptual difficulties.

Various fund-raising events were held, and Ararat Apex made a substantial donation. Over time other Ararat organisations came on-board with funds and various government grants became available. The Library was run by a committee with advice from an Advisory Committee, made up of health professionals, and a group of volunteers who opened the Library two half days per week, seeing to the cataloguing, classifying, storage and repairs of the toys.  In 1990 the Library relocated to the Ararat hospital next to the Physiotherapy room.  By their 10th anniversary the Library was helping 28 family and four schools (with their integration program) and providing toys for the Community House Special Needs Play Group. In 1995, Val Tosch was appointed co-ordinator and proceeded to do a complete stocktake of all toys, checking for current suitability and soundness and made suggestions for replacement toys.

A special meeting was held in May 2004 where it was resolved to wind up the association and transfer to the East Grampians Health Service. The Library could now move into a much bigger space in the former laundry, and would be known as EGHS Ark Toy Library.  Fund-raising continued over the years with many willing helpers dedicated to helping children with special needs.  A new project in 2006 saw the design and construction of a ‘mobile ark’ which could hold toys suitable for children in hospital. This was completed by the Ararat Woodies Club.   Ruth de Fegely retired as President in 2007, after 25 years in the position.  Margaret Stephens took over the president’s role until 2012 when the position went to Kaye Chamings who retained that role until 2022.

Over the years the Ararat Lions Club and other service clubs have been very generous with funding to replace outdated equipment and replace with new modern toys.  In consultation with the art teacher at the Community College a mural was completed by students and erected on the outside wall of the then current Toy Library and now enhances the outdoor playground of the new building.

Many changes have taken place throughout the existence of the ‘Ark Toy Library’ due to circumstances.  A name change to ‘The Ark Toy and Activity Library’ was put in place to embrace both children and adults.

Groups including families and family members, mums and bubs, Early Learning Centre, Early intervention, Patricia Hinchey Centre consumers and Residential Aged Care use the Ark Toy Library on a regular basis.

Staff of EGHS use the resources during therapy sessions, using both indoor activities and the new outdoor adventure equipment donated by the EGHS Murray to Moyne Cycle Relay team. The facility has a welcoming warm feeling within supported by the wonderful volunteers who so generously give of their time.

Life members include Ruth de Fegely, Irene Shaw, Meg Bell, Margaret McMillan, Val Tosch, Margaret Stephens, Grace Rachinger.

Dedicated volunteers have taken roles in various positions over the past forty years including administration, fund-raising, and support responsibilities, however, there are too many names to mention individually.  They know who they are.  Their contribution has been invaluable in keeping the Ark Toy Library alive and operational in Ararat and district.   The aim and focus of the first committee, to provide children with special needs the educational and therapeutic toys required to have fun, has been truly met by their dedication and generous assistance.  Heartful thanks to one and all.

Pictured cutting the Toy Library’s 40th anniversary cake are Tom Fleming, who attended the Toy Library as child with his mum Heather, and Karen Moss, who attended with her daughter Tania in the early days of the Toy Library


Pictured at the 40th anniversary luncheon are Tom Fleming, Heather Fleming, one of the founders of the Toy Library Erin Ballinger, past president Kaye Chamings, current president Bo Munro and Karen Moss