By Rikki King Herald Writer
EVERETT — A young girl who set out to help rebuild her neighborhood park after an arson in May is almost done with her fundraiser.
With the help of family, friends and neighbors, Ashley Barquest, 11, raised roughly $2,900 with “Pennies for Garfield Park.”
On May 19, an arsonist torched parts of the north Everett park, where Ashley, her sister and her cousins play almost every day on their way home from Garfield Elementary School. Police are still investigating.
After the fire, Ashley was heartbroken. She wanted to help.
Along with her grandmother, Karen Barquest, and her father, Shawn Barquest, she turned canning jars into fundraiser jars and placed them in classrooms and businesses around Everett. They handed out fliers. They talked to city officials.
A lot of businesses said no. Some jars got stolen. Ashley stayed enthusiastic.
“It makes me happy when people say they’ll help,” she said. “Running a fundraiser or a business isn’t all that easy.”
The park reopened June 26. The city went ahead and paid for the repairs, which cost about $55,000. City officials told Ashley that any money she raised would go toward additional improvements at the park.
City parks staff now will work with the family to see what those improvements might be, interim city spokeswoman Marla Carter said Tuesday. The family likely will be invited to speak to the City Council.
Ashley isn’t sure what to think about that. She hasn’t decided what she might suggest, she said.
“I’m a little nervous,” she said.
About half of the money was raised by The Homeport Tavern along Everett Avenue.
The bar staff had been planning some kind of charity yard sale for a while when they saw the news reports about Ashley, tavern co-owner Gregory Smith said.
They were impressed that a fifth-grader was behind it all, he said. They also hosted a fundraiser jar and donated the bar’s penny bucket.
“It just kind of struck home,” he said. “The Homeport is in the Riverside neighborhood. I’ve lived in the Riverside neighborhood myself for 28 years. It just seemed like a neighborly thing to do.”
The yard sale was held this past weekend. Ashley came by with her father to drop off some items, including paintball guns and a toaster, she said.
Smith thanked the family “for all the effort they put in for the neighborhood,” he said.
At one point during the yard sale, an elderly woman came by and browsed for about a half-hour, Smith said. The woman didn’t buy anything but donated $20 and said she used to play in Garfield Park when she was a kid.
The woman came back before the sale ended. She donated dozens of miniature figurines from a family collection, Smith said.
Other people also gave money without buying anything, he said. More still would buy a small item and refuse to take their change.
“It was just a really, really uplifting experience, that people really get behind their community, and it was great to see,” Smith said.
The family still has a few more jars to collect and tally. The experience has helped Ashley and her younger sister Janelle grow and mature, Karen Barquest said.
She is helping Ashley make a scrapbook entry about the fundraiser. The family has been collecting mementos, and the sisters have been taking pictures of the park over the past few months.
The grandmother has enjoyed “just watching everything they do,” she said. “They’re good kids.”
Rikki King: 425-339-3449; firstname.lastname@example.org