Powell River’s ORCA (On the Road with Children’s Activities) Bus mobile play-based learning centre is revitalized thanks to a $137,500 Powell River Community Forest grant. The funds allow the program to purchase an upgraded vehicle and expand programs.
“This grant has been a dream come true for our project,” said ORCA Bus coordinator Beth Zroback. “We have just sent in the order and expect the new bus to arrive early in the fall.”
The ORCA Bus is a partnership between Powell River and District United Way, and School District 47. The original ORCA bus, a decommissioned school bus donated to the group in 2009, was in need of major repairs and upgrades.
“The new bus will be a brand new Blue Bird school bus custom ordered from a Canadian company near Vancouver,” said Zroback. “It is 32 feet long and will provide a welcoming space for families to enjoy the variety of early years programming hosted on board.”
The program is also looking into the possibility of installing solar panels that will supply power to the sink and interior lights on the vehicle, she said.
The ORCA Bus is supported by many community sponsors, donations and volunteers and hosts early learning programs throughout qathet Regional District for families with children ages 0-6 years old. It makes stops in Lund, Saltery Bay, Texada Island, Tla'amin Nation and Powell River.
The bright blue vehicle has been a familiar sight throughout the community, providing programs such as StrongStart, inclusion Powell River’s Supported Child Development, City of Powell River Parks, Recreation and Culture Department and the Tla'amin Child Development Resource Centre. The funding will also enhance and expand the service currently offered and include new or enhanced services from inclusion Powell River, Vancouver Coastal Health, Powell River Child, Youth and Family Services, Powell River and District United Way, and PREP's Family Place, added Zroback. The program is currently running a contest for decorating the outside of the new bus.
“We are asking community members to send us images that symbolize their favourite spots, activities and items that represent all their favourite neighbourhoods in Powell River,” said Zroback. “It can be anything from the Sunshine Coast Trail to the Saltery Bay mermaid.”
The group will take all these ideas and put together a collage of images that residents can vote on.
“We want this new bus to really represent our community,” said Zroback. “What better way to do that than to have community members help design it.”
To enter the draw, go to unitedwayofpowellriver.ca.