Though there were bounce houses, coloring and cake to be had, 7-year-old Sophie Good decided to share a book with her siblings Rosalie and Oliver Morris.

“She loves to read,” said Susan Presba-Morris. “She reads to her family all the time.”

The book nook was one of the few quiet spots at First 5 Del Norte’s birthday celebration on Saturday. The independent county agency is celebrating two decades of providing programs to families with children ages 0-5. Its executive director, Angela Glore, also took advantage of the party to ask those the agency serves what their future should be like.

First 5 Del Norte’s first executive director, Patti Vernelson, and one of its first commissioners, former county supervisor David Finigan, also thanked the community for its support.

First 5 county commissions were created when California voters passed Proposition 10, the Children and Families Act of 1998. This tax on cigarettes and other tobacco products provides funding for early childhood development programs, created First 5 commissions in each of the state’s 58 counties as well as First 5 California.

In an interview with the Triplicate last month, Finigan said First 5 Del Norte chose to operate as a commission separate from the Del Norte County Board of Supervisors. Its first commissioners included College of the Redwoods early childhood education professor Phil Freneau and Hilda Ypres Contreras, who is currently at Open Door Clinic, Finigan said.

When it was founded, one of the commission’s primary goals was establishing a family resource center, Finigan said. This would become the Family Resource Center of the Redwoods. Another major program First 5 Del Norte helped spearhead was the Wonder Bus. This was thanks to a partnership with the Del Norte County Library.

First 5 Del Norte has also partnered with the Del Norte Child Care Council, the Del Norte Social Services branch and the Del Norte Senior Center, according to Finigan.

As she watched her girls, 5-year-old Elanna and 3-year-old Susie play in one of the bounce houses, Emilie Simmons said her family has long participated in activitiesFirst 5 has offered at the Family Resource Center while her older kids are active in local 4H programs. Through its partnership with other organizations, specifically the Del Norte Child Care Council, Simmons said First 5 Del Norte has a lot to offer the community.

“It’s nice to have a resource by the library,” she said. “We enjoy the family-oriented activities.”

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