Arlington Resource Center to open May 1

ARLINGTON — A community resource center that has been in the works for more than two years is scheduled to open by May 1.

The center is envisioned as a hub for services, giving people a place to bring questions, needs or a desire to volunteer. It’s starting out in a room at the Stillaguamish Senior Center, 18308 Smokey Point Blvd.

Initially, the center will provide information and referrals to connect people with help for housing, food, jobs, utilities, transportation and education. More services and programs may be added later.

The county, Cascade Valley Hospital Foundation and Lutheran Community Services Northwest are providing start-up money for the center. The Lutheran nonprofit also is handling administration. The agency has centers in five other Snohomish County communities, including Lake Stevens, Granite Falls, Lynwood and two in Everett.

In the coming years, staff plan to pursue grants and donations for the Arlington Community Resource Center.

“Family support really does business in a different way,” said Chrisann Brooks, family support director for Lutheran Community Services. “We work on a philosophy that we stand beside our participants and help build them up. Our support centers are really run as grassroots organizations.”

Arlington’s started about two and a half years ago. The city hosted a forum on homelessness, and Christie Connors, director of the neighboring Stanwood Camano Community Resource Center, attended the meeting. She met Arlington mayor Barbara Tolbert and agreed to mentor community leaders who wanted to establish a resource center.

“Every community needs a family support center and the services it can provide,” Connors said. “Family support centers create a real sense of community, which is important in rural areas where people are pretty spread out.”

Leaders from nonprofits, churches, businesses and government agencies came together to plan. After the deadly Oso mudslide on March 22, 2014, the effort moved forward quickly as coordinators sought to help people with housing, food, clothing and emotional support.

“After the slide, things sped up,” Connors said. “People realized that it was time to put all the planning into action.”

Staff at the Stanwood Camano center worked with United Way of Snohomish County and Cascade Valley Hospital to set up a temporary resource center that stayed in place for six months.

Meanwhile, Barbara Davis, United Way’s vice president of impact and community investment, helped run meetings with a 20-person committee. The first meeting was in May 2014, and she realized immediately that the groundwork for a resource center already had been laid. It was just a matter of ironing out the details, something they did in nine meetings over the next seven months.

“They were so ready to have the right conversations to make this happen for their community,” Davis said. “I think, honestly, it’s going to evolve over time. Family resource centers are, at their core, very broad in how they help the community and very responsive to the community’s needs.”

The center in Stanwood, which started in 1992, has changed a lot in the past two decades, Connors said. She expects Arlington to do the same, finding programs that suit the people they serve.

In Stanwood, offerings include a teen center, parenting classes, a free dental clinic and a class that teaches people to grow their own food. There are three paid staff and about 140 volunteers. The most important thing people can give is their time, Connors said.

The next couple months are for moving in and setting things up, Brooks said. A program director needs to be hired, as well.

“I think what’s going to happen is we’ll open the door and it’s going to get really busy,” she said.

They may need more space in the future, and the committee has floated the idea of someday moving in with the Arlington Boys &Girls Club. In December, the club received $1.5 million in state dollars to double in size in the coming years.

At this point, though, the focus is on getting the center up and running, Brooks said. Organizers still need to find what programs might be needed before they decide on a longterm space.

“We don’t want to go up there and duplicate services. That’s not what we’re about,” she said. “We are going to be doing a real in-depth survey of the community and what gaps we’ll be filling.”

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

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