It is a joy to be here in Hobe Sound and to be part of the Dunbar Early Learning Center family.
As an educator and experienced school administrator, I understand the importance of quality early childhood education — it is the entry point for a child to create a positive relationship with learning. Our goal is to create a sustainable safe space for children and families to grow and thrive. In the weeks and months ahead, I look forward to meeting and working with you — the families and friends of Banner Lake and surrounding neighborhoods.
Our Faculty, Staff and Board of Directors are committed to ensuring that all our children and families are treated with respect, love and care. We strive to become a beacon of light within our community. I look forward to every Dunbar graduation to proudly watch each child matriculate to their elementary education with competence and confidence, ready for a lifetime of learning.
“The goal of early childhood education should be to activate the child’s own natural desire to learn” —Maria Montessori
Dunbar Early Learning Center is devoted to the care, education and promotion of the children and families within Martin County.
At Dunbar Center, Inc., we are dedicated to creating a nurturing, stimulating and welcoming environment for all children. Our unique programs incorporate a variety of educational theories, while always keeping the child’s best interest in mind and allowing for hands-on, experiential learning. To find out more about us, keep reading or feel free to get in touch.
In the spring of 1990, Hobe Sound resident Emmaline Harris and many of her neighbors struggled to obtain childcare while working at minimum-wage jobs. When the local school district announced plans to demolish the long-vacant Dunbar School to provide more parking for school buses, Emmaline went into action. Although the school was in disrepair and served as a haven for drug dealers, she and others in the community hoped the building could be used again as a childcare center.
Ms. Harris and an ally from the neighborhood, Mary Jane Bauer, recruited a Board of Directors with diverse backgrounds and experiences who pledged to work to save Dunbar. With the leadership of the Board of Directors and the support of the Superintendent of Schools, the School Board deeded the abandoned school on Lantana Avenue to the Dunbar Board. The Dunbar Center was incorporated in 1990.
The building required extensive renovations to provide three large classrooms, an administrative office and a kitchen. This task was undertaken enthusiastically by key organizations in Hobe Sound and the surrounding community. The Hobe Sound Community Chest pledged a matching grant of $25,000 and the Olin Foundation provided $100,000. Fundraising in the local community, including $5,000 from the Community Foundation for Palm Beach and Martin Counties and in-kind services from local businesses, gave the Board of Directors an incentive to see their dream come true. The United Way funded a Venture Grant of $25,000 for the purchase and renovation of a portable classroom to be used until the main building could be opened.
The first portable classroom opened in November of 1992 with an enrollment of sixteen children, but none of the families were able to afford the full $60 fee for enrollment. The Children’s Services Council of Martin County provided operational funds for an Executive Director and two teachers.
Dunbar’s building was transformed from a derelict shell into a childcare center. While the physical transformation was occurring, another change was taking place. As the community realized its dreams, the neighborhood began to change. Trash was cleaned out of vacant lots and yards began to look better. Pride was returning to the community.
In May 1993, the renovated school opened with the original group of children from the portable classroom. As more funding became available through additional grants from the Children’s Services Council of Martin County, United Way of Martin County Venture Grant, Community Foundation for Palm Beach and Martin Counties and private donations, a second classroom opened with ten more children who had been on a waiting list.
The community’s sense of pride and accomplishment in the completion of the childcare center motivated continued improvements in the neighborhood, and Dunbar continued to grow. The Center was expanded further and four more classrooms added. In 2000, Dunbar became a grantee of the federal Early Head Start program and received over $350,000 in federal funds. With these funds, the Center was able to hire more teachers and expand its programs. In August 2016, funding from a private donor enabled Dunbar to open an additional infant/toddler classroom.
Dunbar’s Board of Directors, Faculty and Staff created a new strategic plan for the Center in the spring of 2018. The last 18 months have been transformative for Dunbar. Since embarking on a new strategic plan, a year ago, Dunbar has accomplished the following:
Hired new Executive Director Wendy Reynoso with 20+ years of education and management experience, bilingual
Maintained vital summer program and transitioned to independent year-round entity in absence of federal funding
Completed NAEYC review process and granted 5-year reaccreditation
Passed Florida DCF review and awarded Gold Seal Approval
Hired a Director of Curriculum and Assessment and established a new assessment process using data to guide targeted instruction
Increased focus on teacher evaluation + performance
Strengthened literacy program via parent workshop, 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten program + new lending library ‘Gertie’s Corner’
Added Hobe Sound Nature, Music Together and Light House Art programs
Received facility facelift through extraordinary volunteer effort
Launched first annual fundraising appeal + increased individual donor base
Increased collaboration with local nonprofits
Faculty & Staff
Director of Programs
Maria Zornosa, MSW
Director of Family Services
Chief of Staff
Fiscal & Facilities Manager
Developmental and Behavioral Specialist
Food Program Staff
Board of Directors
Sally Auer Zunino
W. Trent Steele