Fund-raising continues for Camano senior center

By BRIAN KELLY

Herald Writer

CAMANO ISLAND — Construction continues on a new senior center for Camano Island, but organizers haven’t hung up their hats on fund-raising.

"The ground has been broken, the foundation has been laid and the floor is going in," said Marla Ries, executive director of Camano Senior Services.

The new building next to Utsalady Elementary School is expected to cost $1.8 million, and roughly $940,000 has been raised already, Ries said.

The current senior center is in a 3,000-square-foot building owned by Island County, near the Camano Island animal shelter on E. Camano Drive. Although an expansion of that building was once considered, seniors didn’t want to spend money expanding a building they didn’t own, Ries said.

Planners hope the new building will be used by the entire Camano Island community. The 10,000-square-foot facility will have classrooms, a computer lab, a crafts room, and a large multipurpose room that can be used for big events such as dances and plays. And the building has been designed to look like a lodge.

"We weren’t going for an institutional look," Ries said.

Construction started in mid-September and is expected to be completed by fall 2001.

Camano Island seniors have been thinking about a new facility for about three years.

"The island has grown tremendously," Ries said. And Camano Island has almost double the number of over-55 residents as nearby areas. "It’s primarily a space need, and a demand for more activities and programs."

The funding has mostly come from private grants and donations. A number of families have given money anonymously, with some gifts in the six-figure realm. The 12-member board that oversees senior services also raised $170,000, Ries said.

Organizers didn’t want to wait until the final hurdle-clearing donation was in the bank.

"We’re not waiting," Ries said. "Build it and the money will come."

Some have sweetened the pot in hopes that others will give.

J.B. "Burt" Garrison and his wife, Bette, donated a parcel of land they own in a development near Soap Lake.

Although he visits the senior center on only an occasional basis, Garrison said he likes the people who work there and wanted to help.

"It might just be a smart plug to get others to donate something," said Garrison, a retired Air Force officer and a Camano resident since 1918.

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