As the executive directors of First 5 Del Norte and the Del Norte Child Care Council, we are excited to share an update about the present and future state of the Wonder Bus.
For people who don’t know, the Wonder Bus is a school bus converted to a children’s library and small, mobile Family Resource Center. It has been off the road for well over a year for a variety of reasons and its exact future has been in question.
“At a recent meeting of the First 5 Del Norte Children and Families Commission, the Commissioners took a first leap toward a major transition for the Wonder Bus program:
“Consider and approve the transfer of title and ownership of the Wonder Bus from First 5 Del Norte Children and Families Commission to the Del Norte Child Care Council, to provide early literacy enrichment programs to the children of Del Norte County.”
With the approval of this agenda item, First 5 took a step back from our long-time role as the owner and primary funder of the Wonder Bus program. For many years, First 5 has provided funding to the Del Norte Child Care Council (DNCCC) to run programs on the Wonder Bus. In the bus’s next chapter, the DNCCC will own and operate the Wonder Bus, with First 5 continuing to provide partial funding for the program.
A transition for the Wonder Bus program has been in process for over a year, with a vision of purchasing a new, smaller vehicle for the program. However, in December, First 5 commissions across the state got bad news about the impact of new tobacco taxes on First 5 funding.
For First 5 Del Norte, the news meant that funds available to support programs like the Wonder Bus are shrinking significantly over the next few years. We needed to re-evaluate our plan.
Enter the Del Norte Child Care Council. First 5 reached out to ask if the DNCCC would be at all interested in taking ownership of the program. Their answer was positive. Together, we presented the plan to the larger Wonder Bus Committee. They gave unanimous support to the concept and we started to move forward with a plan.
“I received a call from Angela and, although it was initially sad news, she recalled me saying many times that DNCCC would love to continue the WB if ever given the opportunity. I took the information to my board of directors and all directors were unanimously supportive.”
Together, DNCCC board and staff had identified a funding stream to run the program, but the WB needs a lot of work to get back on the road. DNCCC reached out to one of our partners, the California Department of Education Early Head Start Partnership program, as there were some one-time funds available. We applied for the one-time funding and were successful, giving us enough funds to get the WB updated and back on the road.
The DNCCC and First 5 are excited to be moving forward. We can see the finish line and we’re looking forward to having a grand re-opening for the Wonder Bus in the near future.
Over the years, this program has been sustained because of its committed community partners: the County of Del Norte, City of Crescent City, Del Norte County Office of Education/Unified School District, Del Norte County Library, Wild Rivers Community Foundation, First 5 Del Norte, and Del Norte Child Care Council. Patti Vernelson and Hilary Hemmingsen are community representatives on the Wonder Bus Committee that has been overseeing the program transition.
From the day the Wonder Bus first rolled into town, this mobile literacy program has been a passion for many. With the support of the community and partners, it will continue to spark a love of reading in children throughout our county.
Angela Glore is executive director of First 5 Del Norte and Melodee Mitchell is executive director of Del Norte Child Care Council. Reach them at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org