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Revitalizing a Community Center, Helping a Community Heal

2014-08-29 - Snohomish - Revitalizing a Community Center, Helping a Community Heal
Our community was really hurting, we all need to heal in our own way, and it’s hard to ask for help.

“This was built by the community volunteers and you never really see that anymore,” said Diane Boyd, waving her hand around the spacious meeting hall of the Darrington Community Center, built in 1954. An imposing building in a small town, the center is a social hub—for receptions, reunions, and memorials—and it houses the school gymnasium.

When the March 22 landslide struck and buried Highway 530, the community center, where Boyd has served as president for 30 years, housed one of three Red Cross disaster response centers. For disaster survivors and emergency responders, the Darrington Community Center quickly became the go-to place to for meals, comfort, information and assistance. After two months of intense use in the disaster response however, the center had accrued unexpected costs relating to facility management, maintenance, operating expenses. More important, as the emergency transitioned to long-term recovery, the center was recognized as a vital site for emergency preparedness in a region facing many threats: flooding, wildfire, and earthquakes. It is also at the epicenter of five active volcanoes in the Cascade Mountain range.

“We are aiming for a full-recovery—preparedness and resiliency included—so our job is to consult with the community, to find out what is important, how to make the best use of funds,” said Chuck Morrison, executive director of the Northwest Washington Region. “So we go directly to the community leaders and the residents, we talk to them, and find out exactly what they need.”

Diane Boyd was one of the first people Morrison spoke to. New doors, carpet, shower heads and protective gym floor covering were sorely needed to get the Darrington Community Center back to fully functioning condition. The Red Cross funded the repairs alongside the refueling of propane and diesel tanks, which had been depleted during the disaster response. For all three communities affected by the disaster—Darrington, Oso and Arlington—the Red Cross has plans in place to spend funds for emergency preparedness and community resilience and to meet ongoing individual needs. This includes supporting food banks for the upcoming holiday season, preparedness education in the local schools; disaster preparedness equipment and supplies; and distribution of smoke detectors to vulnerable and low-income families.

“Our community was really hurting, we all need to heal in our own way, and it’s hard to ask for help,” said Boyd. “But I appreciated what the Red Cross has done in this recovery.”