TULALIP — When the fledgling Tulalip Boys &Girls Club opened its doors in 1997, officials wanted a way to draw people to the club, given its location off the beaten path near Tulalip Bay.
Toward that end, Snohomish County Boys &Girls Clubs officials and tribal members worked hard to cultivate relationships with people off the reservation, said Terry Freeman, who handles fundraising and special events for the county organization.
One way to do this was to have an auction, to raise money and to raise the profile of the club as well.
The first auction was 14 years ago. “As the years went on it got bigger and bigger,” Freeman said.
The strategy now is paying off more than ever. This year’s auction held June 2 set a record for Boys &Girls Clubs in Snohomish County by raising $175,000 in a single event, said Bill Tsoukalas,executive director for the Boys &Girls Clubs of Snohomish County.
The auction at the Tulalip Resort Casino was attended by about 450 people. Most of the donations came from non-tribal members.
“Despite a down economy, people are still willing to support kids because they know that’s a good investment,” Tsoukalas said.
“We’ve been fortunate that the events at all of our clubs have done well,” he said, adding that the Arlington club raised more than $100,000 at its auction last month.
The Tulalip event had added help this year from tribal artists, who for the first time contributed a number of art pieces such as masks, paddles and prints.
“This is the first year we’ve really tried to promote our artists,” said Natosha Gobin, a tribal member who served as a co-chairwoman for the event.
The auction was both live and silent. In addition to the art, other items available included a bassinette, a barbecue, sweatshirts and a trip to Mexico, Gobin said.
“It takes a team of 30 people to put together the auction and each person is definitely needed,” she said.
The club at 7707 36th Ave. NW offers sports, a multimedia room, tutoring, an arts program, classes in leadership skills and more.
The Tulalip Tribes provide the space and pays operating costs for the club while the county organization runs the programs. The auction money goes toward supplemental programs such as meals and summer camps, and now an expansion, Tsoukalas said.
About 250 children a day use the club, he said. The club serves three meals a day, six days a week, adding up to about 60,000 meals a year, he said.
The club is currently working on a $300,000 expansion to make room for installation of an undersea exploration center, in which kids will be able to watch live video feeds from research ships, Tsoukalas said. Only one other club in the nation, in Scottsdale, Ariz., has such a program, he said.
The Tulalip Boys &Girls Club was only the sixth to be established on an American Indian reservation and the first in Washington state, according to Tsoukalas. It’s still the only one in the state.
Bill Sheets: 425-339-3439; firstname.lastname@example.org.