Darrington fund-raiser to save community hall

By Brian Kelly

Herald Writer

DARRINGTON — It’s not a fund-raiser for some kids to go to soccer camp, or for a high school band to travel to an out-of-state competition. Instead, it’s a fund-raiser to save the heart and soul of the community.

Darrington will come together for a "Good Ole Country Benefit" on Saturday to raise money for the Darrington Community Center. The board that runs the center has a line on a federal rural development grant for $30,000, but the center’s supporters must come up with local matching funds of $13,600 to get the grant.

The grant would pay to update the wiring in the 12,000-square-foot building and finance a fresh coat of paint on the outside of the center.

"I’m hoping we can raise $3,000 this weekend," said Judy Nations, secretary/treasurer of the community center board.

"Maybe I’m being optimistic," she said, admitting that the goal is substantial for a small town like Darrington, which has seen its share of economic challenges since timber jobs started evaporating years ago.

There may be some daylight to this dream, though. An earlier fund-raiser brought in $4,600.

"It was unbelievable that we raised that much money in one fund-raiser," Nations said. "When we started this, we felt that if we managed to raise $5,000 that we would have considered ourselves extremely lucky."

Fifty years old in 2004, the community center owes its existence to Darrington men and women who rolled up their sleeves and built the center from the ground up in 1954. Volunteers logged the timber, milled it and raised the building. The first basketball game was played that year, and the following year the high school team won its first state basketball championship. A second would follow a few years later.

The facility is still used for high school sports, but the community center means more than volleyball and hoops.

Graduation ceremonies for the high school are held in the building, along with just about every social event that happens in Darrington —dances, baby showers, wedding receptions, senior luncheons and, of course, the big dinners held after every funeral in town.

Nations recalled the first time she set foot inside the building 35 years ago, as a 13-year-old fresh from Seattle going to a physical education class. She is now one of the volunteers working to keep the building open. Her son’s wedding reception was held there last year.

"It would be very detrimental to our community to lose it," she said. "So much happens there that is our history, from it being built to what it’s used for, to what it’s come to mean."

The benefit will feature live music, auctions, a cake walk, square dancers and a spaghetti feed. It starts at 2 p.m. and goes to 8, with live auctions at 3 and 6 p.m.

And since it’s Darrington, optimism abounds that the community will rise to the challenge and overcome its funding gap.

"It almost brings tears to our eyes, we’re so overwhelmed with the help we’ve received," Nations said.

You can call Herald Writer Brian Kelly at 425-339-3422 or send e-mail to kelly@heraldnet.com.

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