Executive director and assistant sign hanger, Wyonne Perrault, slips around the bottom of the ladder to help her husband, Joe, install a large banner Wednesday outside the new North Counties Family Services facility in Darrington. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

Executive director and assistant sign hanger, Wyonne Perrault, slips around the bottom of the ladder to help her husband, Joe, install a large banner Wednesday outside the new North Counties Family Services facility in Darrington. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

Darrington resource center hosts open house at new digs

DARRINGTON — Looking around the new home of North Counties’ Family Services, director Wyonne Perrault is quick to note that everything — the piano near the staircase, the jukebox in the corner, the desks littered with papers upstairs — is there because someone was willing to give.

People donated furniture and helped move, arrange and clean. Businesses and organizations provided money or supplies for improvements, such as striping for the handicapped parking outside. A furniture staging company that was clearing out old inventory sold the nonprofit all of its couches, tables, desks and shelves for $400.

Teens with the Darrington Youth Coalition hauled furniture. Perrault said she’d never seen so many old pick-up trucks all loaded up.

She mentioned to one of the custodians at the Darrington School District that she wasn’t sure how she was going to move the nonprofit’s piano from the previous office at the middle school to the new building. When she arrived at the building a while later, she discovered the custodian had followed in a truck. “I turned around and there was the piano,” she said.

The American Red Cross awarded North Counties’ Family Services a $350,000 grant to buy the distinctive wood building with a high, pointed roof and big windows at 1015 Seeman St., across from the Darrington IGA.

For 23 years, the resource center rented places in town. It’s a hub for social services and activities. Staff connect people with support for food, housing and gas, including Salvation Army vouchers and state benefits. The youth coalition gathers for projects. There are monthly community dinners, classes on parenting and job searches, and an after school program for elementary students. As people come in with needs or ideas, the services expand or change, Perrault said. That’s the strength of local resource centers.

Everyone is invited to celebrate during an open house from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday. The event is not weather dependent.

“Horrible weather is something we deal with up here,” said Alan Pickard, the organization’s finance manager.

If the weather is bad, “we might just be here with our flashlights,” Perrault said.

Volunteers from the senior center offered to make two big pots of jambalaya and the teens plan to serve beverages. People can tour the 6,000-square-foot building.

The main floor has tall, vaulted ceilings and a large stone fireplace. There’s a waiting area in front of the fireplace, a pool table and jukebox in one corner and a big table for meetings. A private office is available for when workers from the state Department of Social and Health Services visit.

Having a permanent resource center in Darrington is important, said Marree Perrault, Wyonne’s daughter and coordinator for a substance abuse prevention and intervention group.

“Clients usually are on hard times already, and it’s so hard to get out of town,” she said. “If you need to get to an appointment for services in Smokey Point, there’s one bus in and one bus out.”

The building is about 35 years old. Most recently, it was a sporting goods store. The store closed 10 years ago. It was owned by Richard Anderson, who often supported community projects. He wanted the building to go to a good cause. His children sold it to the nonprofit this summer.

An open upper story serves as office space, the main floor is a community center and the downstairs is for the teen center and storage.

Wyonne Perrault hopes to add a teaching kitchen, install an elevator and renovate the downstairs bathroom, which has a shower and space for a washer and dryer.

She wants the building to be useful for the community day-to-day and during emergencies. That’s something she and other organizations have pushed for since the deadly 2014 Oso mudslide. There are 10 red backpacks lined up on a counter in the new building, filled with emergency supplies. They are the last of 400 kits distributed after the slide.

In the teen room downstairs, a large television is surrounded by DVD movies, video games and controllers. A sign on the wall reads, “Make your life be as awesome as you pretend it is on Facebook.”

The teens with the youth coalition wasted no time claiming the downstairs after the move started in August. They painted it, so they think it’s theirs, Wyonne Perrault said.

“But that’s how we want the community to feel,” she said. “This belongs to them.”

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

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