Darrington business group getting new name, new focus

DARRINGTON — The town’s business group is changing its name and broadening the focus to include more community projects as well as business promotion.

The Darrington Area Business Association is in the midst of a transition to become Darrington Strong Inc. Rather than a 501(c)(6) nonprofit, which is the designation given to chambers of commerce, the association is filing paperwork to become a 501(c)(4) nonprofit, the designation for groups like civic leagues and volunteer fire departments.

The Darrington Area Business Association started about three years ago as a 501(c)6 but lost that classification earlier this year because tax forms had not been filed. The news came as a surprise to most of the members, who thought the paperwork had been filed by the group’s treasurer at the time.

The association decided to reevaluate its role in the community and reapply for a 501(c)4 designation. They are working with Seattle-based Foster Pepper attorneys to do so.

The goal is to make sure the name of the group and federal classification reflect its mission and activities, board member Martha Rasmussen said.

“The Darrington Area Business Association just got way too big for a Darrington business association,” she said. “It doesn’t mean we don’t support our businesses. It’s hard out here, and we almost lost some businesses after the slide.”

The Oso mudslide on March 22 killed 43 people and buried a stretch of Highway 530 between Darrington and Arlington. People were grieving, and the most direct route to Darrington was severed, leaving businesses in the small mountain town struggling more than usual.

“We’re commissions and committees just trying to keep Darrington afloat,” Rasmussen said. “Darrington may have felt weak for a long time, but now we’re Darrington Strong.”

When she first heard the name suggested, her knee-jerk reaction was “no way.” After the mudslide, she didn’t want to play off the Oso Strong campaigns that had already started. But the name stuck, and the more she and other association members thought about it, the more it seemed to work.

The organization’s goals include strengthening the sense of community in Darrington, forming stronger ties with volunteer groups and building a strong economic backbone for the town.

“See? Every other word is strong,” Rasmussen said. “So we put it in the name.”

Current community projects include restoring the North Mountain Fire Lookout and cleaning up local parks, she said. Friends for Public Use is one of the organization’s committees that focuses on that kind of volunteer work.

Moving forward, they’d like to start a community garden and create arts and culture programs. The group also has a new website in the works and will continue to manage the tourism site www.destinationdarrington.com and the Darrington Facebook page.

“I remember the days when Darrington didn’t have any online presence,” Rasmussen said. “We made up for that.”

The association plans to file its paperwork soon and hopes to find out about its designation in the coming months. In the meantime, they continue to rally business owners and other volunteers who want to get involved. They’re eager to gather ideas and suggestions, Rasmussen said.

People can contact the association by visiting the Destination Darrington website or calling 360-474-7324.

Kari Bray: kbray@heraldnet.com; 425-339-3439

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